Forecast for the holiday run-up ...

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So what should retailers expect weatherwise in the run-up to the important holiday-selling season?

Weather Trends International, a global forecasting firm in Bethlehem, Pa., is predicting October will start cool and dry, but nearer to Halloween, it's forecasting wet weather that will continue for six weeks.

"Wetter weather is not good," said Bill Kirk, meteorologist and CEO of the firm, whose weather reports are integrated into the famed Retail Link System at Wal-Mart Stores. "Now you are getting into a mind-set where store traffic is critical, and rain and snow is not good."

The company predicts same-store retail sales in the 4% range, he said, compared to a "more normal October-not too hot, not too wet-which has yielded comps of 5.2% historically."

And then comes a disappointing November.

"It's going to get even worse, much wetter and colder," Mr. Kirk said. "Sure, it's favorable if you are selling sweaters, but it doesn't move big-screen TVs and DVDs. This time of year it's all about getting people through the door."

Retailers might find redemption in December, when a warm start for the first three weeks will drive the holiday season, compared to record-cold weather-way below zero in many regions-that made 2005 the coldest and snowiest December in five years.

But don't breathe a sigh of relief just yet. "We are forecasting an Artic plunge at the end of December going into January," Mr. Kirk said.

The risk for retailers is the so-dubbed exchange week following the holiday, when store traffic and sales jump. "If you don't make your numbers by Christmas," he said, "Don't expect that last week to save the day for you."
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