Has this October really been “unseasonably warm”?
This week two retailers have blamed the weather for poor sales. First up it was Next, which has become renowned for generally being so cautious on its guidance that it surprises on the upside. It was forced to lower its full year guidance, however, saying autumn had been too mild for the season's thicker clothing.
This morning SuperGroup followed suit. The young fashion brand SuperDry has also come unstuck because of “continuing weather-related uncertainty”. Its full year profit guidance has similarly been dropped down, leading its share price to tank.
Retailers are obsessed with weather, arguing not unreasonably that consumers will not refresh their wardrobes until the seasons change. But are their memories playing on tricks on them?
Met Office data shows this October has not been the mildest in recent history. Not even close.
In 2014, the average temperature (up to October 28) was 11°C. Last year it was 12.5°C. Admittedly, in 2012 it was 9.7°C, but that was actually the coldest October since 2002.
In fact the median October temperature for the past 20 years up to and including 2013 is 11.2°C, from which it appears this year has been in fact colder than average. Just.
Looking back 50 years, you start to see the pattern that has got climate scientists worried, but while the increments are no doubt significant when considering global warming, they do not appear to be at the level to have made consumer habits dramatically shift from cable knit jumpers and wool coats to skimpy summer dresses.
The pattern since records began back in 1659 again shows a definite upwards trend. But if retailers are basing their production calendar on weather from the era that brought us witch ducking and the plague, we might politely suggest it's time for an update.