Customers flooded grocery stores to prep for Winter Storm Stella -- but the blizzard means a 'nails-in-the-coffin' day for retail

This week’s blizzard warnings guaranteed long grocery lines in the Northeast.

However, the crowds at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods don’t mean that retailers are welcoming the snow. 

On Monday evening, as much of the East Coast prepared to hunker down for a potential “weather bomb” in the form of Winter Storm Stella, customers flocked to grocery stores. 

Then, as they waited in lines that stretched out the door, shoppers took to social media to complain about the consequences of the pre-blizzard magnetic draw of grocery stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. 

 Soon, many shelves were stripped of their inventory. 

However, sold-out shelves at grocery stores don’t necessarily make snow days a win for the wider retail industry, as the cold weather encourages shoppers to stay inside instead of venturing out to shop. 

Blizzards like Stella “are nails-in-the-coffin days for bricks and mortar” retailers, Carl Quintanilla tweeted Tuesday, quoting fellow CNBC reporter Jim Cramer. 

In 2015, weeks of snow in the Massachusetts area resulted in a 24% drop in sales from late January to late February, according to a study by Boston University. At retailers and restaurants, sales fell nearly 50%. 

Even one day of intense snow can hurt businesses. A single-day snow storm-induced shutdown can cost $US152 million in lost retail sales in New York, according to an IHS Global Insight study. 

However, while $US152 million may seem like a disastrously large figure, this week’s blizzard is unlikely to impact sales all that much in the long-term.

“Winter storms are normal. They happen every year,” Ryan Sweet, director of real-time economics at Moody’s Analytics, told Forbes in 2016. “Unless it is significantly stronger than anticipated, the economic costs are going to be very, very small. It is going to give people more of a headache than it is going to cost them economically.”

Changes in weather patterns hurt companies in countless ways. They can influence the growth of certain ingredients, result in more volatile sales, and force customers to adjust their buying habits, for example, convincing them to purchase fewer coffees and parkas during a warm winter.

However, a one-day snow storm like Stella isn’t going to make or break a business — even if it does result in one day of explosive sales for grocers that’s followed by a day of empty stores for retailers.

NOW WATCH: Winter Storm Stella could turn into a ‘weather bomb’ — here’s what that means

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