Snowed in: How retailers use demand analysis to weather the storm

Published on February 02, 2023

Severe weather events are notorious for driving demand up – and down

Warnings and alerts about severe weather often lead to disruption, and depending on factors such as the severity of the event, severe weather can have a huge influence on your business. On one hand, floods, hurricanes, and blizzards often drive demand up for must-haves such as basic necessities and emergency supplies. Everyday items such as water, shelf-stable food, batteries, are hard to come by as storms approach and consumers stock up in preparation. Once they stock up and while the weather rages, people tend to stay indoors – leading to an increase in demand for on-demand delivery items such as groceries, food, snacks, and even alcohol. 


At the same time, this weather-influenced consumer behavior means a decrease in demand for certain goods and experiences that can’t be delivered such as outdoor attractions, or grocers, table-top restaurants, and other food retailers without a delivery option. For retailers, severe weather events from heat waves to ice storms are known to: 

  • Disrupt supply chains that are already under mounting pressure

  • Complicate transportation and shipping for business-critical goods

  • Result in product shortages, which customers universally really don’t like

Severe weather can also cause physical damage to businesses, forcing them to close temporarily or sometimes permanently. While the unpredictable nature of these events means we can't predict them far in advance, you can be better prepared for when they are expected to occur with a better understanding of severe weather events have historically impacted demand for your business locations.

Let’s take a look at an example of how our event correlation with historical sales for an Arkansas retailer that sells soft drinks revealed that frigid temperatures, snow, and ice storms led to a 60% drop in sales for soft drinks – and how you can use correlation to better anticipate, prepare for, and mitigate the impact of severe weather on your business.

How snow storms led to a 60% decline in soft drink sales

PredictHQ's Demand Analysis Tool reveals the events that drive demand for your business. By aggregating and analyzing your historical sales data, it reveals patterns and correlations between demand and specific types of events. The process turns months of data analytics work into seconds, making it easy to identify the events that have the greatest impact on your sales. From this analysis, you can make data-driven decisions to be better prepared in future and to mitigate potential losses for future events.

During mid-February 2021, we performed an analysis with a customer that revealed a sharp drop in demand for soft drink sales across three retail locations in Arkansas, with some locations showing a decrease of up to 60% compared to baseline.


At the time, several states had been experiencing snow and ice storms, plunging temperatures, and resulting power outages.


Possible explanations as to the “why” behind this decrease in demand:

  • The snow storms caused consumers to stay indoors and avoid going out to purchase goods, including soft drinks. 

  • Power outages caused by the storm may have made it difficult for some retail locations to keep their products properly refrigerated, leading to a decline in sales.

  • The harsh weather may have also made consumers prioritize purchasing necessities such as food and emergency supplies, leading to less disposable income available for non-essential items like soft drinks. 

How event correlation powers actionable insights

This correlation between these events and the resulting dips in demand would have been more difficult to identify without the use of demand analysis. With insight into how specific events have historically driven demand for your products and services, you can prepare for these same events in the future.

When these retailers see another snow storm heading their way, they can take action in advance to mitigate potential losses. For soft drinks, this impact isn’t the end of the world – but in the case of products with a short shelf life, demand fluctuations that are this significant can lead to massive amounts of food waste.

Increased visibility into severe weather and other categories of impactful events gives retailers, QSRs, and other businesses the ability to:

  • Have the proper amount of staff: Retailers use intelligent event data to anticipate footfall coming into their stores during a specific event, and adjust staffing levels to match. If a retailer knows snowstorms have historically led to a spike in demand right before the storm, stores can prepare by having enough employees on hand to help customers find products, restock shelves, and keep lines moving quickly.

  • Fine-tune inventory levels: With a comprehensive understanding of how specific event categories impact demand for each of their stores, Retailers can adjust inventory levels to ensure they have enough of their products on hand. A QSR may experience significant demand for delivery and takeout during thunderstorms. By knowing this, they can make sure they have enough food and supplies on hand to meet the anticipated rise in demand within the area of the storm’s impact.

  • Optimize dynamic pricing: Retailers can also use insights into how events impact demand to adjust their pricing strategy. If operators at a grocery store can anticipate increased demand for comfort food during a snowstorm, they can capitalize on this spike by raising the price for comfort foods like soups, canned goods, and frozen meals.

Use PredictHQ tools to save money and maximize revenue during severe weather events

Get actionable insights into how external events impact your demand. By identifying correlations between your sales and events, businesses can make data-driven decisions to prepare for and respond to events that have the greatest impact on their sales. This can help you minimize losses and maximize revenue. 

We recommend you start by letting the Demand Analysis tool reveal how severe weather has historically impacted your business. Quickly and easily upload your historical sales data so the tool can analyze it and identify how your specific business is impacted by events. 

Join the ranks of top retailers making use of predictive demand intelligence today. Claim your free PredictHQ account to start incorporating enriched event data into your demand planning.