Does Weather Influence Spending?

Storm Clouds Over Mall
Photo courtesy of Southernpixel

When I was a freshman in college I worked a variety of retail jobs at the local mall.  I worked at GNC Nutrition for a while, and then a shoe store, and then an athletic apparel store.  At all three jobs I had to report the local weather back to the home office at closing.

At the time, it didn’t really occur to me that there was a correlation between the weather and sales.  Now I realize that weather does in fact have an effect on spending, both on a personal level and on a larger regional level.  Weather impacts both shopping patterns and the types of products that we buy.

Of course, businesses are well aware of these pattens and that is why home improvement stores push things like generators, batteries and flashlights in South Florida during the peak of the hurricane season. Stores in the northeast might carry similar items to prepare for winter storms.

How Does Weather Affect Our Personal Shopping Habits?

Are you a die hard shopper – the kind that would brave the elements to catch a great sale, or risk life and limb to pick up an iPhone the day it comes out?  I suspect many of you are not, but you probably know someone that fits the description. It doesn’t take much to discourage me shopping because I generally hate to shop. I don’t like crowds, I don’t like lines, and I especially don’t like wandering the aisles while falling prey to every well-placed, eye-catching display promoting a new product.

I have noticed that stores seem a little less crowded on both particularly nice days, and particularly bad days.  Maybe most people reserve shopping for those ho-hum days.  You know, overcast with a threat of sprinkles and an almost bothersome cool breeze.

Maybe our shopping patterns have more to do with our overall mood rather than the weather, but since the weather impacts our mood I guess there is still a correlation.   I know some people who are absolutely morose if the sun isn’t shining.  Me? I actually prefer cool, rainy days (should have been born in Seattle).  And when people feel gloomy they often go shopping to lift their spirits.  When they are happy they go shopping to celebrate. And when they are bored they go shopping to give them something to do to hopefully make them happy.  All symptoms of being an emotional shopper.

Not sure where I’m going with all this, but it started as a random thought on a recent lunch break when I watched people scurrying into a Target store, dodging heavy raindrops all the way.  Those same people reappeared in a few minutes with a tiny bag and soaked clothes, and spent the next several minutes adjusting their hair in the rear-view mirror.

I couldn’t help but wonder what they had purchased, and why it couldn’t wait until after the severe thunderstorm rolled through that day.  Hey, at least they were stimulating the economy!  Meanwhile, I was camped out in my truck listening to Dave Ramsey and eating a sack lunch.  Just the way I like it.


  1. When I worked in fast food I definitely noticed that weather impacted sales. When it was nice out side we would be packed all day long. Especially if it was the first nice day in a while.

  2. I worked in food service all through high school and college, and there were some interesting relationships between sales and weather. In general, rainy or snowy days are bad–but not always. Sometimes it would be pouring and we’d be slammed.

    I worked at a high end restaurant this summer, and when the weather was really beautiful, we would be dead, something I never would have expected for a restaurant that prided itself on a lake view. Once the sun set, things would pick up again.

  3. I think weather affects mood and mood affects shopping habits for sure, especially up here (in the northeast). When you get tired of being out in the cold but don’t want to stay in your house anymore … you go shopping.

  4. From my experience working in mostly food grocery stores (and a stint at Wal-Mart), I found that there was little correlation between the weather and the shopping. Unless it was totally miserable out side. When it was raining outside, I’d just look out the doors and wonder to myself, “What in the world are these people getting themselves soaked to the bone out here for?” And then I’d look over at the lines that were longer during the rain than they were when it was sunny earlier.

    Though, I do have to say that living in Louisiana, we’d have people frequent Wal-Mart and just look around to take advantage of the air conditioning. Oh, that was fun.

    By the way FrugalDad, you’re bringing your lunch in a “sack”? Gee whiz, how much food do you bring for lunch? Kidding! 🙂

  5. Smart post. Yes the weather indeed affects the pattern of our spending. Because for every weather changes the necessities varies as well. Thin and skimpy clothes for summer and then thick furred coats during the winter. Stuffs like that. Food cravings of people change as well. So yeah, the weather pretty much affects the way we spend our money.

  6. We have a Totally Free Market here in Richmond the last Saturday of each month. I look forward to it but won’t go unless the weather is nice! So even my “free shopping” is influenced by weather!
    When it’s raining, cold or both, the last thing I want to do is go anywhere. Actually, that dynamic encourages a lot of “make do” attitude I apply to everything from mailing envelopes (I make my own from cereal boxes) to what I make for meals (invent a new casserole with items on hand). I’ve found all sorts of double uses for nearly everything just because I do not want to leave the house!

  7. “. . .I watched people scurrying into a Target store, dodging heavy raindrops all the way.” – and none of them picked up an umbrella? Too funny! I remember when the West Coast was hit with a huge blackout about ten years back. I went to the hardware store the next day and saw a line of people returning . . . flashlights. What are they going to do the NEXT time they lose electricity?

  8. I find myself going to the store when I’m bored. I don’t even need to have a purchase in mind, I just go to get out of the house and be around people. Usually I’ll pick up a small item that will come in handy, I don’t usually find myself purchasing a lot of things I don’t need anymore. Good post.

  9. I know the weather definitely affects my spending. I get around by bicycle. So on really cold, rainy, or even hot days I don’t want to be riding to the store if I don’t have to. I try to consolidate my necessary trips into one and cut out all other trips.

  10. I used to work in the motorcycle industry and we lived and died by the weather. Out here in the midwest, espcially after a nasty winter, people get “cabin fever” and just want to get out the first time it is warm.

    I could care less. If I need something and it’s -10 out I’m going. I also would put off shopping indoors if the weather is nice.

  11. There’s definitely something to this. When winter is around and you’re bored, you get in the car and go to…the mall! Or to…the movies! Every now and then we’ll just get in the car and go for a drive, but usually we go somewhere and spend money.

    Anything to avoid cabin fever.