Mar 26, 2018
The March Four’easter
I really wish I came up with that simple yet clever term, but the credit goes to a New York Times columnist, writing about the fourth snowstorm to hit the Northeast in March, which arrived after the official start of spring. Now of course no one is under any illusion that come March 20 it will, all of a sudden, be sandal weather, but 12 to 18 inches of snow post-vernal equinox does seem a bit excessive.
A week or so ago, on the day of the third Nor’easter of the month, I noted the number of promotional emails related to spring in my inbox: “Spring is just one week away!” “New season, new styles!” “Warmer days ahead!” It was like someone clearly missed the memo. A few days before that (just after the second storm in March), I walked by a prominent independent shoe store in my neighborhood and saw a letter paper-sized printed sign in the window that read “WE HAVE BOOTS!” The window was full of sandals, so the sign was needed, or else someone looking for boots might have just kept walking.
Clearly the footwear (and broader retail) industry is still challenged to adapt the flow of product. Industry players have talked at length about the fact that the retail calendar does not align with the actual seasons, nor with the mindsets of consumers as they look to “buy now, wear now.” Since I’m on the topic of snow, it’s worth pointing out that dollar and unit sales of winter/snow boots have declined by 10-15 percent during each of the past two boot seasons*. But, while we don’t have March 2018 results yet (as it is still more than a week away from month-end as I write this), looking back at March dollar and unit sales for 2016 and 2017 reveals small dollar volume, but double-digit growth each year. This suggests that consumers have an increasing appetite for this type of product in March, whether it be out of actual need or just acting opportunistically, taking advantage of post-season clearance sales (which are apparent given the rapid deterioration of price points versus earlier in the season). Not surprisingly, the top growth designated market areas (DMAs) for winter/snow boots in March for the past two years combined are New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Boston.**
So you know the saying “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb?” Well, that lion seems to be hanging around a bit longer these days, so perhaps there is some opportunity for brands and retailers to take advantage. In addition to the spring email marketing I received on the day of a snowstorm, I have been pleased to see a few other messages over the last week that recognize the fact that it is still cold and snowy in the Northeast, promoting the appropriate products. But, what if we took it one step further? With seasons blurring together and late winter/early spring seemingly colder and snowier than ever, February/March could be a good time to release a limited quantity of new snow boot styles scheduled for full launch during the upcoming fall/winter. This newness and limited supply could potentially entice consumers who have not yet bought a new pair to do so, and/or create demand for the full launch later in the year.
*The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, 6 months ending February 2018 and 2017
**The NPD Group/ Retail Tracking Service, March 2017 and 2016