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16 ways to blame the weather

Weather business
AP Photo / Jae C. Hong
Bad for business.
By Matt Phillips
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Does your business have a problem? You can always blame the weather.

The impact of permanent climate change is starting to be felt everywhere from the arctic oil rush to temperature fluctuations in the world’s great wine-producing regions. Superstorm Sandy alone is expected to cost the US economy $50 billion.

But even short of real extreme conditions, weather gets blame—and, more rarely, credit—for unexpected variations in business performance. It’s obviously an easy way to pass the buck. Quartz decided to look at some recent issues attributed to weather-related factors. We leave it to you to decide whether the causality claimed is actually justified.

It’s Warm!

  • Softer snowboard apparel sales — “It was a slow start in North America. As everyone has heard, the weather was unseasonably warm particularly on the East Coast, but we’ve got snowfall and cold weather, and things are starting to pick up. Europe, we’ve got really nice cold weather, and we’re off to a good start.” —Robert McKnight, CEO, Quiksilver
  • Disappointing sweater sales at Dressbarn — “I really do think – even though we had sweater issues in several of our brands, I think it may have been at best a combination of weather and style, and at worse, it was primarily our own style issues.” —David Jaffe, CEO, Ascena Retail
  • Lackluster suit sales —”We believed we had a strong marketing and promotional strategy for the period. However, many of the promotional items and a large part of our holiday assortment were items that sell best in cold weather and the weather was unseasonably warm,” —David Ullman, COO, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers
  • Lower propane prices — “[L]ast year for the propane industry anyway was a punishing year. It was a brutal year, and I’m glad it’s over. Much of what happened last year was beyond our control. Weather was incredibly warm and, in fact, it was the second warmest in recorded history.” —Ryan VanWinkle, CFO, Ferrellgas Partners
  • Weaker coat sales — “It has been warmer than typically during this time period. And as we mentioned in other calls previously, colder–we do better in colder weather, overall. So I can’t really–I don’t really want to talk about specifics within the quarter, but as the weather gets colder, it’s a help to our business.” —Thomas Kingsbury, CEO, Burlington Coat Factory
  • Fatter chickens — “The primary reason during the fourth quarter was we had such a mild fall. The weather down here was perfect across all of our operations, and our live weights, the chickens, just — they perform very well in that type of environment,” Lampkin Butts, COO, Sanderson Farms.

It’s Cold!

  • Higher Chinese food prices — “Snow had left about 180,000 head of livestock dead in northern China by Jan. 4, while icy weather in the subtropical Guangxi region damaged 8,310 hectares of crops, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.” —Bloomberg News.
  • Energized sales of car batteries — “It’s just been very recently that we’ve seen the downturn in terms of the cold weather. And of course, we’re seeing—we expect to see some significant weather changes next week with severe cold. So that will help us.” —Steve Roell, CEO, Johnson Controls
  • Stronger soup sales — “The weather last year was certainly or likely a factor for soup sales because we know that that’s a little bit weather related.” —Kendall Power, chairman and CEO, General Mills
  • Higher Coca-Cola consumption forecasts for 2013 — “You mentioned the weather, and yeah, the weather in Europe in the summer of the 2012 was the wettest and coldest in maybe a 100 years. So, could that help the situation, and the answer is sure.” —John Block, CEO, Coca-Cola Enterprises
  • More winter oil drilling in Alberta — “We’re striving to avoid construction during the wet spring and summertime in the area.” —Bryan Gould, president, Athabasca Oil

It’s Wet!

  • More expensive logs in the US. — “Harvest volumes increased from the third quarter despite some challenging weather conditions. Our operations were affected by high wind and rain conditions in the West during November and wet weather in the South at the end of the quarter,” Kathryn F. McAuley, vice president of investor relations, Weyerhaeuser.
  • And cardboard  — “Since early January, a pattern of extremely wet weather in the mid-South has begun to put pressure on wood costs and availability. Our wood inventories are declining and the extent of the earnings impact from the wet weather in the first quarter will depend on how long the weather pattern persists.” Mark Kowlzan, CEO, Packaging Corp. of America.

Email me at if you see any good weather-related statements that we missed.

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