This was the 4th warmest December of the past 28+ years for the U.S. as a whole. Much warmer weather in the first half of the month gave way to a spell of much colder weather mid-month. However, warmer weather was quick to return with the final 2 weeks of December trending warmer than last year and normal. Here's a recap of December 2019 daily temperature trends:
Warmer trends were unfavorable for seasonal gift categories, like electric blankets and apparel, but will have steered more consumers to spend on non-seasonal gifts, like electronics and jewelry. The middle of the month will have provided the best opportunity for seasonal merchandise sales as much colder weather descended on much of the nation. But the return of warmer weather just prior to Christmas will have driven more last minute shoppers to choose non-seasonal gifts.
For the U.S. as a whole, precipitation trended similar to last year making this the 5th wettest December of the past 28 years. The month ended on a particularly wet note on the East Coast and across the North. Although the Southeast trended drier than last year, this was the 4th wettest retail December in 28+ years for the region with unsettled weather in the second week (week-ending December 14th) and the weeks of Christmas and New Year's. Drier than last year and normal weather could be found across the South Central U.S.
Unsettled weather will have been a headwind for store traffic for December overall. Drier weather in the final days leading up to Christmas will have been favorable for last minute shopping traffic across the North and Central U.S., but wetter weather in the Southeast and Southwest may have cut some shopping trips short.
While snowfall for the month overall trended greater than last year, we're comparing to a below average month of December last year. This year was snowier but still below average for the U.S. as a whole. Snowier year-on-year trends could be found in the North and in the mountains of the Southwest. Meanwhile, the Southeast saw much less snowfall than last year's 5th snowiest December in 28 years. In fact, outside of a little bit of snow in the week-ending December 14th, much of the rest of the month was virtually snow-free in the Southeast.
Snowier year-on-year trends in the North and Southwest will have increased interest in snow removal categories, like shovels, rock salt, and snow throwers. Much of the rest of the nation will have seen softer sales for snow removal categories.
A warmer December, while yielding a brief mid-month period of more favorable weather, was overall more difficult for seasonal categories compared to last year. While snowfall was greater than last year, the overall spread of snow wasn't very great and will have had limited positive impacts on snow removal categories. An unsettled December may have presented challenges for store traffic at times, likely pushing more consumers online, especially during the first half of the month when online purchases were guaranteed delivery by Christmas.