But should investor relations blame weather for missed earnings or a chill in sales? It’s not an easy question, but IR people (like the investors we serve) should at least ask skeptical questions when confronted with a claim that rain or hail or snow or dark of night kept the company from delivering earnings.
If you haven’t seen it, warm up your day with this entertaining video of Barry Ritholz discussing earnings excuses. Speaking on “Tech Ticker,” the economic commentator, investment strategist and keeper of the Big Picture blog excoriates “these pinhead PR guys” for foisting weather on investors as an excuse:
We’ve had God knows how many feet of snow, but IT’S JANUARY! And you know what? It snows in the north in the winter. … Look, if it was 120 degrees in January – hey, that’s why winter coats aren’t selling -that’s a legitimate issue. But snow and sleet and ice in January and February? This is not a surprise.
And in case you hear another seasonal excuse, Ritholz says don’t go there:
There was, I don’t remember which restaurant chain it was, that blamed a bad quarter last year because few people went out to dinner during the Super Bowl Sunday. And I said, ‘Did you not know the Super Bowl was coming? I think it’s scheduled for the next hundred years.’
Of course, icy weather may in fact keep consumers home for a time. Or delay our trucks from running. Or even shut down a plant or office. But let’s not be too quick to write or say weather is the reason for sales and earnings falling short.
CEOs, CFOs and, yes, IROs should apply the same disclosure disciplines to weather as to other factors affecting the business. In internal discussions we should probe a little deeper: Can we quantify how bad the weather was compared to last year? How many days did we lose? What exactly was the impact, and how can we back that up?
Being just a bit skeptical up-front may help us answer our investors’ questions.