The seasonal retail cycle is absurd. I would never have been able to grasp it if I hadn’t been a buyer for years. Why is it that when the weather is hot, you can’t find a pair of shorts to buy; and that when it’s cold, turtle necks and coats aren’t available in stores? At the height of ski season, sports shops are filled with summer camping and cycling gear. Absolutely bizarre! The explanation is simple – retailers worldwide assume that people plan their wardrobes in advance for that first chilly Autumn or warm Spring day, and therefore buy ahead of time. For this reason, merchandise needs to be in store promptly for this “planned” pattern of purchasing. Any diversion from this rigid cycle would be detrimental to business. Despite the fact that there are 4 official seasons, clothing collections refer only to 2, namely Spring and Autumn. Summer is merely an extension of Spring and Winter an extension of Autumn.

The retail cycle in the northern hemisphere (when July is hot and December is cold) is as follows:

  • January to July – when Spring/Summer collections are available
  • July to December – when Autumn/Winter collections are available

Sales in the fashion industry are generally planned as well:

  • January – Winter sale
  • March – Spring sale
  • July – Summer sale
  • October – Autumn sale

Hitting March and October mid season sales are the closest that you’ll get to buying clothing for an urgent seasonal need. The retail cycle for the southern hemisphere (when July is cold and December is hot) would be the exact opposite of the above.

In the northern hemisphere, the best time to buy bathing suits is usually in March when there’s still frost outside. While winter coats are typically best bought in September when the air conditioner is still on. Knowing how the retail cycle works is especially useful when planning for a trip. If you are off for a beach holiday in October – you’ll now know that you’ll need to have bought your tank tops, shorts and speedo somewhere between Feb and July. By the same token, if you’re off to ski in March, you’ll have needed to buy winter woolies between August and December. Here’s hoping that you won’t be caught unaware of what is and isn’t available in stores at a particular time from now on!