Winter’s late arrival could bring chills to shareholders of Kathmandu Holdings Ltd & Myer Holdings Ltd

If you are anything like me, you will have been enjoying the warm autumn with the recent cold snap coming as a rude surprise. Unfortunately for some retailers the warm weather has been anything but welcoming.

On May 12, Myer Holdings Ltd (ASX: MYR) updated the market with this warning:

“In recent weeks, the unseasonably warm start to winter has contributed to subdued sales of winter product. The 2016 Federal election campaign occurs during a key trading period and Myer is anticipating an impact on consumer sentiment during this period but it is difficult to quantify”.

Kathmandu Holdings Ltd (ASX: KMD) shareholders will remember a similar warning back in June 2014 after Australia and New Zealand had experienced a comparable warm start to the year:

“The sales shortfall has been particularly significant in the past fortnight, the first two weeks of Kathmandu’s winter sale promotion. In this period across all the major metropolitan cities in both countries we have been selling in a period of warmer, drier and generally sunnier weather than last year. This has been particularly the situation in New Zealand, and the winter weather pattern to date has not been conducive to sales of core Kathmandu cold weather product group’s items such as down jackets, fleece and thermals”.

Keeping in mind that over 60 per cent of Kathmandu’s sales are made over the Easter and winter periods, it is not surprising the share price headed south soon after that update.

Investors in both Kathmandu and Myer can be forgiven for feeling nervous about the upcoming reporting season with Australia experiencing its warmest ever autumn. To add insult to injury, Australia is also in the middle of an election campaign, an event renowned for sapping consumer confidence.

Interestingly not all retailers have been caught off guard by the warm spell. The proactive approach of Wesfarmers Ltd’s (ASX:WES) department store CEO Guy Russo, goes a long way to explaining the turnaround in Kmart’s fortune:

“Australia has to realise that winter doesn’t run for three months, winter probably lasts four to five weeks, It took us five years [at Kmart] to understand winter wasn’t a three-month period, Kmart now brings in winter stock in April and May instead of February and its inventories are in much better shape than its peers”.

Foolish takeaway 

Albert Einstein is credited with defining insanity as the process of doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting a different result. Having been previously burnt by adverse weather conditions, I have resolved to never invest in sectors susceptible to climatic change such as clothing and agriculture. As an investor I find it difficult enough locating a great business with great management without having to count on great weather as well.

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Motley Fool contributor Alan Edmunds has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.

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