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Demand Planning Could Help Retailers Dig Out After Winter Storm Landon

Robust demand planning could help offset a temporary slowdown of retailers’ spring sales due to what the National Weather Service is calling a “massive” winter storm hitting a broad swath of the country this week.

While attention has turned to how the storm, named Landon, might impact the nation’s already strained supply chain, one expert said the logistics industry is prepared for such occurrences.

“Usually storms like this, as impactful as they can be, typically the impacts are limited and minimal from a pure supply chain perspective,” said Evan Gold, executive vice president of global partnerships and alliances at Planalytics. “I think businesses do a good job getting out ahead of these events. I know it’s a big storm, but it’s winter. It’s the middle of winter right now. It’s a large storm. I think the bigger issue is more on the demand side and have those businesses made the adjustment for the pending demand swings that we’ve seen.”

Planalytics provides predictive demand analytics to help companies measure and understand the impact of weather on specific products.

Businesses, from logistics firms to retailers, typically have enough time ahead of major storms to plan store inventories or set out contingency plans, Gold pointed out. Retailers that know a storm is coming may ship out boots or thermals to stores in the affected part of the country ahead of the storm.

“The customer’s going to buy in advance of a storm when they can still go to a store. The same goes for a transportation company,” Gold said.

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The storm this week is expected to bring heavy snow, sleet and freezing rain to various parts of the central United States and then move to the interior portion of the Northeast, according to an alert from the National Weather Service on Wednesday. The service’s warning for the storm, which was named Landon, spans from parts of New Mexico to Vermont with reports pegging some 90 million people in its path.

“Plan now for prolonged, hazardous winter weather conditions and disrupted travel,” the National Weather Service said.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker authorized a disaster proclamation and activated the state’s National Guard. The governors of Oklahoma and Missouri declared states of emergency.

Flight-tracking site FlightAware reported 2,215 cancellations within, into or out of the U.S. as of Wednesday evening EST. Another 2,485 flights were reported as delayed at that same time.

Union Pacific Railroad warned customers ahead of the storm that snow, sleet and freezing rain was likely to hit “a significant portion of the U.S. and our rail network.”

“In anticipation of weather-related impacts to our network, we have activated our winter weather action plans and will have additional resources positioned accordingly,” the railroad operator said.

FedEx said Wednesday it is monitoring the storm and told customers, “contingency plans are in place, and we will be prepared to provide the best possible service in areas affected by the winter storm and as local conditions allow.”

The logistics company also said Wednesday an “explosive surge” in Covid-19 cases has left it with a temporary shortage in its air division.

Ultimately, for the apparel industry, Planalytics’ Gold said storms such as the current one “tend to be a net negative,” pointing out clothing is a discretionary purchase.

Categories likely to see sales lifts this week include outerwear, hats and gloves and thermals, according to Gold. Any early spring merchandise rolled out onto sales floors may temporarily slow in parts of the country impacted by the storm.

“All of those spring categories or early spring categories, those are obviously the ones that you’re going to see the big hit on,” Gold said. “But, there’s still time. This is week one of the retail season. Typically, this is one of the slowest times.”