For Corporate America, the weather can giveth and taketh away.
Warmer-than-usual temperatures in parts of the U.S. this winter wreaked havoc on many retailers by depressing demand for cold-weather apparel and other goods people buy to stay warm and safe. Even though sales picked up as temperatures dropped to more seasonable levels, that hasn't been enough to make up for lost profits as retailers and apparel companies offer steep discounts to unload winter merchandise.
But other companies can roll with whatever Mother Nature throws at them. Home improvement chains, for instance, benefit from both unseasonably cold and warm weather.
Let's take a closer look at how six different companies are coping with this winter's roller-coaster weather.
Home Depot (HD) and Lowe's (LOW): The top two home improvement chains, which both reported fourth-quarter earnings this week -- sold more shovels, snow blowers and rock salt when the weather turned cold, but they also moved lots of supplies for outdoor projects when temperatures began to warm.
Home Depot saw double-digit gains in power washers, mowers and pressure-treated decking. Rival Lowe's also saw "increased demand for exterior products." Atlanta-based Home Depot reported a profit of $1.47 billion, or $1.17 per share, on sales of $20.98 billion, topping analysts' expectations. For Mooresville, North Carolina-based Lowe's, profit excluding one-time items was 59 cents per share, while revenue rose to a better-than-expected $13.24 billion.
Macy's (M): Few consumers updated their winter wardrobes this year because they weren't "inspired" to do so given the unusually mild weather in parts of the U.S. The lack of frosty temps hit the largest department store chain especially hard. Comparable-store sales, a key retail metric measuring activity at stores opened for at least a year, fell 4.3 percent, not as bad as the 4.7 percent analysts expected, thanks to cooler weather in January that finally spurred more sales of winter clothing.
VF Corp (VFC): Temperatures were so warm in parts of the Northeast this winter that people were able to ride their bikes on Christmas Day. For the corporate parent of outwear brand The North Face and Timberland, that was bad news. Both brands saw their fourth-quarter revenue fall 4 percent.
Vail Resorts (MTN): When it comes to ski resorts, it's location, location, location -- and the local weather. Analysts expect operators in the Northeast to show profit declines in the latest quarter after struggling with a lack of snow, especially in early winter. But operators in the snow-covered Rockies, like Vail, are schussing all the way to the bank. Vail has reported a 19 percent increase in ski-lift ticket sales in the current season. It also reported double-digit increase in skier visits and dining revenue. Ski school and and retail sales also both reported gains.
Steve Madden (SHOO): The maker of high-end women's footwear and accessories had warned investors last month that profit would fall short of expectations as warm weather and increased promotions would eat into profits. Still, in Wednesday's earnings report, the company said profit rose to $25.7 million, or 43 cents per share, while revenue increased 0.5 percent to $344.3 million. The results were in line with forecasts. But Steve Madden's guidance for the full year of $1.93 to $2.03 per share was short of estimates. Investors warmed to the in-line results, and the shares gained more than 2 percent to $35.12.