NEW YORK ( TheStreet) — The return of old man winter to the Midwest and East Coast could send an arctic chill through the sales and profit lines of U.S. retailers who are about to close the books on their fiscal years. Must Read: Why a McDonald’s Turnaround Is Such a Supersized Challenge A powerful winter storm is poised to wreak havoc along the East Coast on Monday evening on into Tuesday after causing damage to roads and power lines in the Midwest. According to the National Weather Service, New Jersey, New York City, Long Island and parts of southern New England up to Boston may receive as much as 24 inches of snow. The storm has already led to more than 1,800 flight cancellations, and is destined to trigger school cancellations and roads that resemble ice skating rinks. The renewed storm activity across the country this month also stands to bring some financial hardship to many retailers that enjoyed decent holiday seasons amid minimal snowfall and moderate weather conditions, as well as low gas prices and an improving U.S. labor market. Mall openings could be delayed, or locations outright closed for a day or two, as cleanup crews plow massive parking lots and retailers from Macy’s to Gap seek to avoid putting their employees in harm’s way. On the other hand, home improvement retailers Home Depot and Lowe’s are poised to rake in extra sales from demand for snow blowers, rock salt and shovels. However, even for these retailers, the arrival of huge snow accumulations and gusty winds is a mixed blessing — intense storms could stunt demand for lumber and building materials being used on East Coast job sites, as well as temper initial consumer enthusiasm for spring items such as lawnmowers and outdoor patio furniture currently on sales floors. Mother Nature’s tightening grip on the country to kick off the new year closely resembles that of 2014, where January through much of February experienced frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall that harmed sales for retailers and disappointed their investors.TheStreet takes a look at the winners and losers from Mother Nature’s wrath. Must Read: Starbucks’ Seemingly Perfect Holiday Quarter May Not Be So Perfect 1. Home improvement retailers Severe winter weather in January and February of last year was generally unkind to Home Depot and Lowe’s. Some of the coldest temperatures on record in the Midwest and Northeast led to a same-store sales decline in Home Depot’s outdoor project categories that included lumber and building materials in the fourth quarter. Strong demand for weather-related categories such as portable heaters, pumps, weather stripping and snow removal equipment only partially offset the sales shortfall in pricier building materials. In all, Home Depot estimated it lost $100 million in sales in January from inclement weather. Lowe’s was in the same boat as its larger rival. Although Lowe’s saw a healthy appetite for space heaters, shovels, ice melt, and pipe fittings to repair burst pipes, demand for building materials waned. The company estimated that its fourth quarter sales came in $100 million below its expectations due to unfavorable weather. About 21% of Home Depot’s stores are situated in the Northeast compared to roughly 18% for Lowe’s. As for the biggest winner from consumers scrambling to deal with all the winter weather, that would be snowblower manufacturer Toro . The company actually benefited in two ways from last season’s ugly weather. First, last year’s heavy snowfalls led to strong re-ordering activity of gas and electric-powered snowblowers by major retailers while storms were brewing. Second, it set the table for consumers to open up their wallets to buy snow removal equipment this past fall season, on fears of a repeat of winter 2014. When it announced its fourth-quarter earnings on Dec. 4 , Toro noted demand prior to the peak winter season was strong. The long-awaited arrival of winter in January, and likely continuing into February, only puts Toro in a better position to deliver a better-than-expected first quarter. Home Depot’s accounts for about 11% of Toro’s annual sales to residential homeowners. Must Read: 3 Big Reasons Staples Shouldn’t Merge With Office Depot 2. Department stores Department stores, which often bring in their first batch of spring merchandise immediately after Christmas, are likely to be the biggest losers from the blizzard. Last year was a prime example. "In January, our sales fell well short of what we had planned, and as a result, we missed the sales guidance that we had provided at the start of the month," said Macy’s CFO Karen Hoguet on a February 2014 earnings call. She added that people were watching the weather instead of focusing on shopping. At the other end of the mall, J.C. Penney didn’t fare too well, either. Pointing out that "300 stores were closed during a period of time in one place or another" due to storm activity, J.C. Penney Chairman and CEO Mike Ullman also noted people were not buying much when they did visit the stores around specific weather events. One area that did okay for the company was online, as consumers sat trapped at home and surfed the web. About 14% of Macy’s stores are located in the Northeast vs. 17% for J.C. Penney. However, one beneficiary of the harsh weather was V.F. Corp. , which owns the Timberland boot and North Face jacket businesses and is a key supplier to department stores. The company credited the winter weather as having aided its business in the fourth quarter last year, with North Face sales increasing by 10% in the fourth quarter of 2013 and Timberland revenues gaining by a high-teens percentage. J.C. Penney has told TheStreet it hasn’t made any announcements at this time on store closures for the approaching storm. Macy’s declined to comment. Must Read: Investors Can’t Get Enough of Fast Casual Restaurant Plays 3. Discount retailers Consumers often flocked to Walmart and Target stores last year to stock up on water, soup, batteries, cold weather apparel and other essentials to survive nasty blizzard conditions. But it wasn’t enough to counteract lost sales from delayed store openings and travel conditions that kept many people at home. Walmart noted in February when it reported its holiday sales numbers that the "weather got the best of us." Sales were the strongest for car care products and heaters, as well as cold weather apparel. Walmart’s U.S. same-store sales declined by 0.4% in the fourth quarter on the back of a 1.7% fall in customer traffic, due in large part to the effects of the inclement weather. Rival Target also voiced disappointment in its sales, saying they could have been better if not for "extreme weather across much of the country." Target declined to comment on sales trends in cold weather categories and the prospect of store closures this time around. A Walmart spokeswoman said the company has not commented yet on anything related to the storm. Must Read: 3 Reasons to Still be Optimistic About Best Buy’s Stock
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