Stop me if you've heard this one: "Cooler Weather Hurt May Sales". As the major retailers prepare to release May sales results, headlines like this are appearing in business reports across the Internet. These reports hint that while May sales are expected to increase in the 2.5% to 4.5% range, sales across the retail sector were "erratic". No doubt we will be reminded that cool weather, a late Memorial Day, consumer sentiment and stock market volatility all tempered consumer spending.
Are you kidding me?
It's not the weather. It's not the holiday shift. It's not locusts. The economic shocks of the past two years have changed shopping behavior. Retailers may not like the looks of a new deliberate and purposeful shopper, but she's staring them down with a more thoughtful and responsible approach to buying.
Armed with a new array of shopping tools (many supported by new technologies) that emerged during the recession, this post recession shopper has learned to incorporate these tools to save time and money. She's packing comparison shopping sites (BizRate, shopLocal), community shopping sites (Groupon, Gilt, Rue La La), online and mobile coupons, and search engine shopping in her arsenal. This is not a shopper that is overly influenced by weather and calendar shifts.
She is practical, pragmatic, and invested in this new shopping process.
So while some businesses will choose to wait out the storm, others realize that there will be no wholesale return to previous shopping patterns and behaviors. Smart retailers will adapt to the new patterns and forge relationships with customers early in the process. They will make product and savings information explicit and easily accessible across all these new touchpoints. They will ramp up social selling skills on Twitter and facebook and make sure that their brand is front and center in search results.
Retailers will develop new capabilities to better service customers through this new thoughtful approach to buying or risk being labeled a fair weather friend.