As US apparel retailers begin to panic over their overstock of cold weather ranges, thanks to unseasonably warm weather this winter, one company has outlined four best practices for weatherproofing businesses. 

For retailers such as Lands' End and L.L. Bean, excess ski jackets can wait in the warehouse for next winter, says global software consultancy ThoughtWorks Retail. But for most chains, fleece pyjamas and fur-lined boots remain theirs until the winter weather arrives, or until they are marked down enough to move them off the shelves. 

While some believe the cold weather is coming, ThoughtWorks Retail has highlighted four best practices for weatherproofing a retail business: 

  • Smart analytics that can data-science weather forecast models, year-over-year purchase trends by zone and customer buzz for market-level insights to provide more agile and adaptable seasonal plans. 
  • Responsive, on-demand manufacturing using product-level insight to create small lots that meet market conditions. For brands like Shoes of Prey, ThoughtWorks Retail believes this is easy. For retailers who have to place big orders months in advance, the pressure will be on brands and suppliers to offer more flexible manufacturing and distribution solutions.
  • Unified inventory that provides speed, flexibility and visibility across the entire supply chain. This starts with reducing product development and incubation cycles from months to weeks, and this does not just apply to fast-fashion retailers. It also means being able to track shipments, storage and stock levels regardless of location (vendor, in-transit, warehouse, in-store) is critical to deliver the omni-channel experience today's customers expect and demand. This allows retailers to quickly move products to the front of the warehouse, store or website – in the right locations – in response to rising or falling temperatures.
  • A platform for growth, which, among other practices, includes a website that works today and tomorrow. According to ThoughtWorks Retail, it's not enough to just withstand the load of Black Friday traffic without crashing, retail websites have to be a dynamic system that allows product, merchandising and marketing teams to create personalised and immediately relevant offers, assortments and online displays that meet customer needs in real time beyond size, style and personal preference. 

While there will always be a degree of unpredictability in retail, ThoughtWorks Retail says the better prepared they are for change of any kind – be it economic, cultural, climate or otherwise – the more enduring their businesses will be.