Fashion retailers: you can’t predict the weather – but you can respond to it
4 min

Fashion retailers: you can’t predict the weather – but you can respond to it

The fashion industry thrives on data. Success is driven by brands understanding (and even predicting) where and when people will purchase goods, what they’ll buy and how they’ll want it delivered.

Any elements you can’t forecast can feel very frustrating. Like the weather.

From torrential downpours in August to heatwaves in October, ‘unseasonal’ weather patterns can significantly impact sales. But while you can’t change the forecast, you can ensure these disruptions are a damp squib rather than a complete washout.

Weather changes pose a ‘double threat’ to fashion brands 

Unseasonal weather conditions particularly damage fashion brands because they disrupt back-end operations AND customer buying patterns.  

From a supply chain perspective, global warming is making it harder to manage fashion production. 40% of cotton-producing regions will experience shorter growing seasons by 2040 due to increased temperatures. Meanwhile, extreme weather events like flooding could render some regions unsustainable for fashion production, causing €65 billion worth of disruption.

If this isn’t challenging enough, at the front end of your business, something as ‘simple’ as a sudden downpour can dramatically impact demand. 

Take the UK, for example. Summer 2023 was 11% wetter than average. Tu at Sainsbury’s recorded a 95% year-on-year uplift in outerwear demand, with online search for raincoats increasing by 446%. 

Then September rolled around, and UK temperatures heated up just as fashion retailers launched Autumn/Winter collections. The country reached 30°C on seven consecutive days

Brands found their garments were misaligned with conditions, and demand for high-value items like coats and knitwear was much lower than usual. Industry bellwethers Next Plc and Marks & Spencer Group Plc experienced a drop in share prices – and they weren’t the only apparel retailers whose trading figures were dampened by the weather.  

Don’t let bad weather affect your business forecast 

Even the fastest production cycles can’t keep pace with climatic changes. So, what’s the solution? Since predicting the weather is impossible, the next best tactic is responding swiftly when it impacts your business. In other words, intelligently manage your available stock to create sales opportunities.

Fashion companies that adapt to shifting weather patterns are best positioned to limit the damage of unseasonal conditions. An agile order management system (OMS) is key to being fleet-footed.   

Retail OMS software enables apparel brands to make products readily available when and where customers want them, even if demand patterns get disrupted. This drives sales and reduces overstocks.

Consider the spike in UK raincoat searches during the wet summer of 2023. Fashion brands with omnichannel OMS software could respond to this behaviour by making all their raincoats available to ecommerce customers – including those stocked in stores.

Savvy brands can pair agile OMS capabilities with a dynamic marketing strategy to use unseasonal weather patterns as a sales tool. Why not proactively promote your available raincoats, umbrellas and wellingtons on a damp day? Studies show that 72% of people respond to weather-aware ads.

OMS software can also help fashion brands mitigate unusual weather patterns. For example, after a warm start in September, apparel companies can kickstart Autumn/Winter sales by promoting bundles of clothing stocked in the same location to lift transaction values without increasing distribution costs. 

Make data-driven decisions based on real-world conditions 

The key to an agile order management strategy is visibility – whether you’re mitigating the impact of the weather or another external influence. 

Retail OMS software centralises order processing so you can offer all available SKUs across your business, dynamically allocating stock based on real-time demand. 

OneStock’s market-leading distributed retail OMS provides real-time inventory visibility across all channels. You can make data-driven decisions based on real-world conditions, such as changes in the weather. 

In addition, our dynamic order orchestration capabilities allocate stock from the optimal fulfilment point for your business objectives and delivery promises. If a storm is due and a customer wants a new raincoat the next day, you don’t want to keep them waiting. 

Our software can even use advanced business intelligence capabilities to analyse historical data so you can understand the impact of previous weather events on sales and influence future responses. 

The fashion industry will never outpace Mother Nature, but that doesn’t mean we must remain at her mercy. The more intelligent and agile your order management capabilities become, the better placed you are to respond to fluctuating conditions.

Book your free OneStock demo to see how you can drive sell-through, whatever the weather. 

Further reading