Seasonal story ideas: Spring’s impact on businesses

by March 14, 2012
allergy

Photo by iStock

Ah, the sights, scents and sounds of spring:  Bare toes, charcoal lighter fluid and thumping bass from car stereos unleashed to top volume via rolled-down windows.

After a winter that was kind of a downer for snow-removal contractors, rock-salt vendors and sweater sellers, the U.S. is basking in an early warm-up that is expected this week to bring temps in the 70s and 80s to a wide swath of the Lower 48 this week.  (Though the Weather Channel reports unseasonable snow in the Pacific Northwest with more on the way.  Go figure.)

As with any weather phenomenon, the balmy pre-spring temps are good news and bad news depending on one’s line of business. The nation’s cherry blossom festivals, for example, are monitoring trees for early-peaking blooms; I imagine that could lead to some shuffling of reservations for bloom-related tour groups and other visitors.  The same goes for spring ski season at various venues and other outdoor venues; I’ve heard of outdoor ice rinks, for example, that just gave up on Winter 2012 and shut down.

Here are some other business stories you mght visit for a ‘weather winners and losers’ financial round-up:

Allergy season.  Early tree pollen and other factors are going to make this year especially bad for allergy sufferers and those who until now didn’t know they were seasonal allergy sufferers, as this Wall Street Journal article points out.  Here in Michigan, for example, my doctor told me – as he wiped away his own tears with a tissue – that it’s a killer mold season because we didn’t get sufficient low temps to kill the spores.

I guess that is good news for the allergy industry, from drug stores to makers of OTC medications to physicians, clinics and other venues that treat sufferers.  You wonder if even sales of Kleenex and eye drops and air filtering machines and allergy-free pillows will get a bit of a boost at local merchants.  Here’s a Drug Store News article from last year that just about licks its chops over a USDA report that — due to climate changes — ragweed season is 16 days longer than it used to be.  What other interesting data do stores, pharmaceutical distributors, air filter makers and others use to plan their seasons?

Look for homeopathic or other alternative practitioners offering allergy treatments, for a novel take, and check you state legislature; are moves afoot to limit access to some OTC meds in an attempt to thwart meth factories?

Apparel sales.  Is early spring a boon or bust?  I did watch a woman fork out $99 for espadrilles and a lacy top this afternoon; clearly in the grip of spring fever.  But what happens to unsold mittens and fleece jackets?  Check in with clothing sellers – including used and resale shops – about how demand is shifting.

Utlities.  Did the warm winter effect revenue and profit projections at local power companies?  And what do their in-house weather forecasters predict for the rest of the year?  Will they make up for lackluster heating income by sending out whopping A/C bills this summer?

Growers.  From roadside bedding-plant stands to giant agriicultural spreads, the early weather can be a game-changer.  See this St. Louis Post-Dispatch article about early runs on garden centers, or this Agriculture.com piece about an early spring equaling, maybe, more corn.  And as we know, more corn means more feed, which could lead to lower meat prices, or more fuels with ethanol, or more acres devoted to corn – which means fewer devoted to other crops, driving their prices up.  Talk to economists about the ripple effect of different planting strategies nationwide.

Road construction.   Obviously getting those orange barrels out early is a lucrative prospect for roadmakers and the workers counting on those seasonal jobs.

Outdoor eateries.  The molded resin chairs are springing out ahead of the crocuses this year; is that just a matter of moving routine restaurant trade outdoors or is patio and sidewalk seating a net gain for bistros?