Never underestimate the purchasing influence of a daffodil.
As consumers emerge from their month’s-long hibernation, jostled out of their comfort-food stupors by late-day sunlight and early morning bird song, they rediscover not only the deep-rooted need to be out of doors among the flowers, but also the complementary urge to throw money at that need.
There’s the typical stuff we buy — sandals, grills and flats of pansies. But several unique traits of early spring trigger behavioral changes that cause retail shoppers to splurge on items they would not have expected. Following are eight such peculiarities of the season.
April showers bring digital dollars
In rainy regions in particular, consumers tend to use soggy afternoons for online shopping. Website traffic on home furnishings and clothing sites rose 10% to 12% during rainy days in Seattle, compared with on sunny days, one study found. And speaking of showers, April tends to be a busy month for the bridal kind, as June is one of the most popular months for weddings (bridal showers are customarily hosted one to three months before the wedding). And guess where a lot of those bridal registries are made? Online.
More babies are born in September than in any other month, meaning that in April, five months earlier, those baby bumps will begin to show. This momentous life stage triggers not only an uptick in maternity clothes purchases, but in toys, tiny shoes, and other irresistible baby items (by family and friends as well as moms-to-be). This life stage also triggers cravings — spring is a good time for ice cream makers to introduce their latest salt-infused flavors.
Wearing less is more enticing
Warm-weather apparel is encouraging and aspirational — it gets us daydreaming about summer parties, outings and vacations. And it makes sense (we tell ourselves): purchasing shorts, swimsuits and sandals in the spring is like contributing to a sunny-day fund. But this is what’s different: shoppers are investing in warm-weather items earlier in the season, according to research by Edited, a global retail analytics company. New arrivals of swimwear peaked in April of 2018, with nearly 1,000 more new styles at retail than in April 2016 and 2017.
If the sun is out when people leave work, they are more likely to stop at a store or two on the way home, research shows. If it’s dark, they’re more like to drive straight home. For this reason, some states, including Massachusetts and Florida, have looked into extending daylight savings year-round, and abolishing daylight standard time, when we set the clocks back, in the fall.
Thank organizational whiz Marie Kondo for high levels of house-purging this spring. But all of that clearance will inspire people to organize and brighten their homes, as well. So in addition to traditional cleaning products, mops, buckets and other supplies, people will likely be hunting for shelving units, decorative hooks and window treatments, all of which could lead to unplanned home improvement projects. This may be why home furnishings retailer Wayfair is offering discounts on 23 home renovation items through April 2.
More foot traffic
People are on their feet more frequently and for longer periods of time when it’s warm, which is especially beneficial for small independent shops that operate in standalone locations on the sidewalk. Foot traffic in general motivates activity purchasing as well — from water bottles and energy snacks to arch-supporting socks and doggie strollers. Couches require a blanket and a remote control; movement requires gear.
Some retailers reportedly use bright halogen lightsto mimic sunlight in their stores, but the real thing inspires more creative purchases. People tend to feel more optimistic in the sunshine, opening their minds to fresh experiences and even risks. New purchases fall into this category, from kayaks and outdoor activity gear to backyard lighting systems. Home Depot reports that its gardening department historically represents 15% to 20% of first quarter (February to April) sales.
And we’re still shopping for winter
S. Eliot’s poem about April being the cruelest month (“stirring dull roots with spring rain”) translates in the aisles, as stunned consumers find themselves purchasing ice-melting salt and flower beds in the same trips. But location matters: an eight-degree drop in mid-April temperatures will cause outerwear sales to jump 35% in Phoenix but just 9% in Chicago, according to Planalytics, a consultancy that specializes in how weather affects retail.
Further, weather only repeats itself year to year about 15% of the time, so there’s no point in precisely planning this spring’s purchases based on last spring’s calendar, and the same goes for 2020. When it comes to planning around the volatility of the season, it's best to keep the big trends in mind, live in the moment, and smell the daffodils.
Bryan Pearson a Featured Contributor to The Wise Marketer and is the President of LoyaltyOne, where he has been leveraging the knowledge of 120 million customer relationships over 20 years to create relevant communications and enhanced shopper experiences.