ROSWELL, Ga. -- Harry's Farmers Market here will forecast this week's sales of seasonal Halloween items with the help of a home-grown software program and the likes of Willard Scott.
Weather statistics, drawn daily from meteorology resources stored on the Internet, are fed into the retailer's forecasting and analysis software to develop more precise sales projections.
Harry's has achieved forecasting accuracy levels ranging from 93% to 97% by combining weather information with more traditional tools such as historical data and "gut feel" instinct, said Terry Ransom, executive vice president and chief administrative officer.
"We've developed sales forecasting models based on a variety of weather conditions, including the time of day, the number of minutes of daylight, wind direction, temperature and humidity," he told SN.
"It allows us to take historical data and use the weather variable to be more accurate as to what the actual sales might be."
Ransom said the sales tool is used by store level staff and corporate buyers and is particularly useful when predicting holiday and seasonal buying trends.
The system is most effective in developing short-term sales projections. "We can't predict out more than a couple of days because weather changes so often," Ransom noted.
The sales analysis and forecasting software program was developed by the company's information technology staff four months ago and is currently being used by the retailer's four stores, which have access to the Internet.
Harry's Farmers Market stores can access the Internet via the company's corporate office, where computer servers from Sun Microsystems, Mountain View, Calf., provide direct access to the Internet.
Ransom said the sales forecasting program is among several software packages under development at Harry's. Another project under way, an electronic item catalog, will enhance price accuracy and reduce labor costs, he said.
"We're developing an item catalog, a single point of price entry product which will allow us to develop our entire inventory description in one place, and then propagate it out to all other systems, including cash registers.
"Right now, we have to enter item and price information into each one of our registers in each store. It will mean a tremendous increase not only in the accuracy of pricing, but think of the labor involved," he added