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Favorable weather could drive sales for remainder of holiday shopping season

Projected cold temperatures and a lack of stormy weather could drive brick-and-mortar retail sales during the homestretch of the holiday shopping season, according to weather analytics company Planalytics.

In a Dec. 14 webinar on the remainder of the holiday shopping season, Planalytics Executive Vice President of Global Services Evan Gold said that the final 10 days before Christmas Day, beginning on Dec. 15, may be marked by cold temperatures, which could boost sales of winter apparel and other cold weather items.

"The outlook remains really positive for the rest of the holidays season," Gold said. "We have four of the top five volume days to come still and the weather plays a critical role during this homestretch. If you don't think the weather impacts the holidays, think again."

Weather forecasts for the weeks of Dec. 10-16 and Dec. 17-23 that show colder than normal conditions throughout the Great Lakes, Upper Midwest and Northeast will be "critical" for the final days before Christmas, Gold said.

Light snow also benefits in-store shopping because it does not severely impact traffic conditions and serves as a reminder for consumers to stock up on gloves, boots and other seasonal goods, he said.

This is especially important following Dec. 15, when participating retailers will honor "Free Shipping Day," he noted. Following this period, in-store shopping is expected to increase as consumers get last-minute gifts, making weather a crucial factor.

"We have 11 days to go until Christmas and there is a significant amount of purchasing that remains, so buckle up," Gold said.

John Harmon, a technology and equity analyst for Fung Global Retail & Technology, said during the webinar that he remains optimistic of the 3% to 4% estimated holiday sales growth, due in part to a 4.1% unemployment rate, the lowest in 17 years. He also pointed to the 2.5% year-over-year hourly wage growth to $26.55 in November, as well as the extra shopping day consumers have this year due to Christmas falling on a Monday.

The Commerce Department said in its Dec. 14 monthly retail sales report that sales rose by 0.8% during the month of November, which Harmon said is a sign of consumer confidence.

"By the way it's going, sales could beat our estimate," he said, also projecting that Dec. 22 could be the busiest holiday shopping day of the year.

A strong finish to the holiday shopping season would complement a strong first half marked by a surge in online and mobile shopping.

According to Adobe Analytics, Black Friday sales were up 16.9% year over year to $5.0 billion, beating the company's $3.05 billion projection. Cyber Monday sales also increased by 16.8% this year, Adobe said.

The National Retail Federation reported that more than 174 million consumers shopped in stores and online over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which was marked largely by dry weather across the country, beating their prior estimate of 164 million.

Gold said the lack of disruptive weather, including heavy snowfall and ice, helped travel and foot traffic during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. He said the cold weather, particularly in the eastern states, helped "get consumers into the holiday mindset."

He also said that January is traditionally a big month for gift card redemption, which is especially important to retailers, which consider the cards initially as liabilities and do not recognize them as revenue until they are redeemed.

"January becomes an ideal time to redeem them," he said. "For January, colder-than-usual temperatures are projected. Weather-driven opportunities still remain."