December 15, 2010, 1:55 PM

E-retailers benefited from lousy weather last weekend

Rather than battle the elements, many consumers went online to shop.

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E-retailers found a silver lining in the snowstorms that blanketed the upper Midwest and much of the Northeast last weekend: improved store traffic and sales.

In-store retail traffic decreased 4% from last year in North America for the week ended Dec. 11, according to Planalytics Inc., a firm that tracks the weather’s impact on retail transactions and store traffic.

 The firm says the snowy conditions in the Midwest, rain in the Pacific Northwest and cooler-than-normal temperatures in the Southeast and Florida contributed to fewer footfalls in bricks-and-mortar stores. E-retailers benefited as a result, Planalytics says. Online traffic in North America was up 5% for the week overall compared to last year, and up 10% or more in the affected regions, the company says.

The weather effect also showed up in online sales, says Channel Intelligence, a firm that provides online marketing services to retailers and says it tracks about 11% of all online sales through its client base.

Online sales from Dec. 7 to Dec. 12 started slowly but picked up as the weather worsened, says Alan Fulmer, co-founder and executive vice president of Channel Intelligence. From Dec. 7 to Dec. 9, online sales were up 4.7% from a year ago. From Dec. 10 to Dec. 12—when the storms hit—online sales increased 16% from 2009.

“The weekend ended much stronger,” Fulmer says. “When the weather was nicer earlier in the week people were going out. As the weather got worse people went indoors and online.” He says sales for the Dec. 7 to Dec. 12 period were up 10.3% overall.

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