Weather forecasts: Getting warm

Don't assume a heat wave will drive air conditioner sales. This summer will be hot, but so was last year's — predicting demand is a matter of comparing weather from year to year.

Weather's impact on sales cannot be denied, but one of the principles of Bethlehem, Pa.-based Weather Trends International (WTI) is that retailers must concern themselves not so much with the actual weather forecast, but rather the change in the weather compared with the previous year.

Looking into August, Weather Trends is predicting heat.

"People think 90-degree weather drives air conditioner sales," said WTI's Bill Kirk. "Not necessarily. Take a 95-degree heat wave in New York City. If the year before was 100 degrees during the same period, then the demand for air conditioners would be down about 50%. What matters is the delta" — meaning the difference between the current trend and the previous-year trend.

The eastern third of the United States, with the exception of the Northeast, will see very warm temperatures in August 2013.

Temperatures in the West will also trend above normal, but it will be cooler than last year's August, which was the hottest August in the region's recent history. The latter part of the second week of August and into the third week has all the indications of high temperatures across the Midwest and East, except New England.

According to WTI, retail merchandise plans built off of last year will result in an overstock of hot weather categories in the West, while in the eastern third of the nation demand for warm weather products will be stronger than last year, especially in the second and third weeks of the month.

In the rain department, rainfall is expected to be heavier in the Rockies and Plains states, which will dampen demand for outdoor-related project materials. Another active August is anticipated for tropical systems, especially later in the month. The highest-risk area for a land-falling storm, should one occur, would be along the Texas coastline.

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