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December 13, 2010 / Dave Gorham

Holiday Weather Affecting Shopping Trends? Maybe

Those of us in the Western Hemisphere are solidly inside the 2010 holiday season and for many of us, it’s a time to rejoice, reflect, reach out to others, be thankful . . . and spend lots of money.  Not that spending is a requirement but for any number of reasons, we usually find ourselves flashing the plastic a lot more often this time of year.

Economists and market watchers make a living this time of year trying to predict how much the weather will affect holiday shopping receipts.  According to the trend predictors, if it’s too cold and snowy, you can’t get out to spend (or perhaps just don’t want to).   Too hot around Christmas, and you’re not in the spirit.

This week we seem to be getting the best of both worlds, or maybe the worst: record high temperatures on the West Coast and extreme snowfall from the Upper Midwest into the Northeast.  There’s lots of contrast in temperatures across the U.S. right now (see below) and it makes me wonder if holiday purchases spike along the temperature gradient that lies between the two extremes.

Temperature extremes across the U.S. this afternoon. Graphic: ImpactWeather Gmaps.

And then there’s the online factor.  Whether it’s for a gift or not, online shopping at this point is trusted and ubiquitous enough that the news media doesn’t even report on it any more than they would that shoes protect your feet and umbrellas can be really handy.

Regardless of the weather, a 2005 study indicates that holiday shopping strife causes many of us discomfort overall.  Once again this year, I tried to talk my sisters into letting us draw names for a single-gift arrangement and once again I was informed that for the most part they were all almost finished with their shopping.  (Harumph.)  So this year I’m a split consumer – half my gift purchases were online and half were offline, the kind with an actual store and an actual sales person.

Ironically, the online buys were a lot faster and easier but I sure enjoyed the in-person purchases a lot more.  Courtesy of the still-dragging economy, I was even greeted at the entrances to two stores with surprise coupons that offered significant savings.  So no more griping from me.

Holiday shoppers. Photo: benzinga.com

P.S. – Don’t forget that the Geminids meteor shower peaks tonight.  I hope wherever you are that you have a clear view and happy, safe holidays.

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