SHOOTING THE BREEZE

All over corporate America, executives are talking about everyone’s favorite conversation topic

[Note: These quotes were taken directly from transcripts collected by FactSet. The words are real, but the conversation depicted is not.]

So 12 executives walk into a bar.

It’s earnings season, and retail sales growth seems to be slowing down, so everyone’s a little grumpy and trying to figure out what’s going on.

“So look, we don’t want to say it’s all weather,” said Joel Manby, SeaWorld CEO.

“It’s not something that we talk about on a day-to-day basis, to be honest with you,” said Christos Angelides, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, trying to avoid the subject.

“… But we’ve got some pressures like El Niño,” said Brian Witherow, CFO of Cedar Fair. (Cedar Fair runs amusement parks, and nobody wants to go to an amusement park in the rain.) “The threat of El Niño that’s out there, that [is what] we’re paying close attention to.” And indeed, this one’s predicted to be a big one.

“This is a consensus at the milder weather, as women are not purchasing seasonal items such as velvet or embellish dresses at the rates that they traditionally have,” said Oscar Feldenkreis, COO at Perry Ellis. He spoke in a grave tone.

“There is some risk, especially given the wet El Niño weather pattern being forecast, that consumption will slow,” concurred Steven Austenfeld, Clorox’s vice president for investor relations.

“And right now it is really weather-dependent,” noted Edward Stack, CEO at Dick’s Sporting Goods. “And if you were able to take a look at our reports, you could see the categories that are weather-dependent have had serious sales misses, and the categories that are not weather-dependent have continued to perform really quite well.”

Not everyone was nervous.

“It really depends on, obviously, how this plays out,” said Craig Menear, CEO of Home Depot, hedging a bit. “It could potentially play to a warmer northern, which means we might have a year where we have more outdoor project business running deeper into the season.” Or at least that was his hope. “The potential offset to that is a much cooler, wetter southern situation.”

“So there are times, even when the weather is chilly, snowy, and rainy, and we could see the benefit of ICEE sales in movie theaters,” said J&J Snack Foods CEO Gerald Shreiber, trying to add in a little more balance to the dire predictions at hand.

But some of the executives assembled were downright tired of the bellyaching.

“Of course weather is always a factor. And we have had significant decreases in some of our weather-related classes. But as you know, having been associated with the Urban brand for many, many years now, we never ever blame the weather for anything,” said a fed-up Richard Hayne, the CEO of Urban Outfitters, as he pushed away from the bar to order some pizza from the kitchen.

“Yes, it’s very disappointing, isn’t it, when the weather doesn’t cooperate,” Angelides grumbled. “It’s really annoying! Well … every week, weather dependent, there are issues. And it’s our job to manage those issues.” He went to join Hayne at the counter.

Things got a little quiet after that. Some tried to go back to talking show (“I mean, it’s pretty hard to beat Mother Nature, but it’s extreme weather,” offered Sprouts Farmers Markets COO Jim Nielsen), but it was clear that the evening was over.

The execs paid their tabs and went their separate ways, furiously refreshing the farmer’s almanac apps on their smartphones.

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