How "Snowmageddon" Spikes Sales

How "Snowmageddon" Spikes Sales

26 January 2015

Snowmageddon. Snowpocalypse. Snowzilla. Whichever cheeky portmanteau suits your fancy, they all mean the same thing: Snow. And lots of it. 

It’s no secret that Americans exhibit some unique shopping behaviors around major winter weather events. Local newscasters are often seen warning of impending snow in front of their favorite dramatic backdrop: ravaged grocery shelves showing across-the-board out of stocks. It happens year after year, and by now we all know it’s coming. Isn’t it time we apply data-driven insights to our snowstorm sales strategies? So in true dunnhumby fashion, we turned to the data to answer some key winter weather questions:

  • When do grocery sales spikes begin around major weather events?
  • How soon after the events do regular shopping trends resume?
  • Which categories are impacted the most by snowstorms?
  • Is there a certain group of shoppers most likely to change their behavior?

TIMING OF SALES SPIKES

Across the United States, we see spending peak in the 1 to 2 days prior to a major winter weather event. On average, there is a 4-5% increase in total store spend in the days leading up a storm. Soon, people hunker down indoors with their grocery stockpiles and we observe a drop in spending as the storm hits. It takes approximately 2 to 3 days for spending to return to an average rate.

Interestingly, this snowstorm sales trend varies across regions of the United States. In the Atlanta market, pre-storm sales at almost four times the national average, and post-storm sales are slower to recover. On the flipside, in the Pacific Northwest there is a minor spike leading up to the storm, but the greatest lift in sales is seen while the storm is actually happening. Likely, consumers in regions more accustomed to snow are more comfortable braving the elements for a grocery run as the snow rushes down.

IMPACTED CATEGORIES

We hypothesized that non-perishables would be the most shopped products around a snowstorm and that perishable items would take a major hit in sales. And while canned goods certainly led the pack in sales uplift, we were interested to find that fresh produce did not experience an equivalent decline. Categories with the greatest spike in the days leading up to a snowstorm were, for the most part, your typical apocalypse staples: canned soups and vegetables, pre-packaged meats, bulk water, batteries, and flashlights.

SHOPPER PROFILING

While the differences are not immense, we do observe a disparity in consumers whose shopping behavior is impacted by snow events. In totality, shoppers with higher incomes tend to exhibit the greatest sales change when winter weather hits. They are typically younger (<65 years in age), and perhaps as expected, have a higher likelihood of children. Additionally, the people who increase their spending during a snowstorm are those shoppers who already trend toward more grocery visits and higher year-round spend. The regular spenders, come snow, simply begin spending more.

As the thermometer drops and winter weather begins to settle in, let these insights better prepare you for Snowmageddon 2015. While a towering apocalypse silo stocked to the brim with years’ worth of shelf-stable meats may be an extreme, the trends we see still tell a powerful story: when the snow hits, American shoppers will be prepared. And this year, so will your brand.

Associate Director - Brand Consulting

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