Extreme Weather: A new variable to predict consumer behaviour?

Jul 19, 2022 |2 min read
extreme weather shopping

Warning. I’m a Brit. So I’m going to talk about the weather. And it’s had quite a lot of media coverage over the last few days, thanks to record temperatures and red alert heat warnings across the country.


Extreme weather is changing our shopping behaviours

I listened with interest to an item on the radio saying how this current extreme weather has driven a trend for indoor shopping.  The extreme heat, it seems, has driven consumers indoors in search of client-controlled store environments.

Apparently this is a new phenomenon.  We’d usually see more outdoor retail when the weather is good (especially at coastal locations).  But global warming is driving a new trend, resulting in new consumer behaviours in a country not geared up for these extreme temperatures.  According to the World Meteorological Organization, since the 1980s each decade has been warmer than the previous one, and the warmest seven on record have been since 2015 (with 2022 looking set to add an eighth). But it’s not just about temperature. Evidence supports a growing number of extreme global weather events in the last two decades (including floods, heatwaves, storms and wildfires) and many countries are reporting a growing number of heavy precipitation events each decade.


How else does the weather influence our shopping habits?

This got me thinking about the role that weather takes in driving our behaviours.  There are lots of statistics which suggest that the weather influences shopping habits, most notably in the fashion industry where the clothes we buy often reflect the temperatures and types of weather we’re experiencing.  Research in China also suggests that we spend less in physical stores when it rains, but more online.  Another from the UK states that wind has the biggest impact on retail trends, while a study from the US suggests that the driver of behaviour is actually our mood and the store environment, and that weather is simply a confounding variable.  Other articles also support this latter view, with retail trends going against what the weather might predict, when earlier this year we saw increased footfall on the UK high street, despites storms and hurricanes.  Maybe I would say this, but more research is needed!


The future?

Extreme weather and its impact on our behaviour is clearly one to watch as, unfortunately, global warming and resultant extreme weather looks like it’s here to stay. Maybe extreme weather futurists are the future of our industry. Will ‘Weathernographers’ and ‘Meteoresearchers’ become the norm on job posting sites and at the bottom of email signatures?