Will An Early Easter And Awful Weather Spell Trouble For Next plc, Halfords Group plc And Debenhams plc

It doesn’t seem like five minutes have passed since I last wrote about the potential for one of the harshest winters in over 50 years following the arrival of the Bewick’s swans two weeks earlier than in 2014. Many say that the winter follows them, prompting me to highlight a selection of retailers that could be set to benefit from the colder weather.

As it turned out the 2015/16 winter has turned out to be one of the warmest on record – so much for the swans! And as can be seen from the chart below,following a real mix of updates in the sector we know the basket of shares under review today have suffered to varying degrees.

However as we know, a quarter of poor trading, due in the main to the unseasonal, weather can present an opportunity, and given the key early Easter holiday, which weather forecasters are predicting to be a washout, investors may well be presented with a few attractive entry points as trading is reported to the market.

With that in mind let’s take a closer look to see if there could be some opportunities going forward in a sector under pressure…

Next misses a step

First up is the FTSE 100 constituent Next (LSE: NXT) whose shares are off nearly 20% from their all-time high acheived in December last year. Since then the shares have struggled, in part due to the warm weather and the fact that NEXT Directory’s disappointing sales were compounded by poor stock availability from October 2015 onwards.

Additionally, management flagged that the online competitive environment was getting tougher as industry-wide service propositions catch up with the NEXT Directory.

Despite the gloom, the company purchased 1.2m of its own shares in accordance with the share buyback policy. That means it’s unlikely to pay a second special dividend along with its final dividend but could continue to buy back shares if they take another dive following the results.

Halfords still on track?

Investors bought into an in-line update from Halfords (LSE: HFD) the UK-based retailer of automotive and cycling products when management updated the market on 21 January. Since then the shares have appreciated by over 20% in what seemed to be a sigh of relief from the market that had been pricing-in more gloom.

The shares have struggled of late following a broker downgrade from Liberum Capital coupled with a £3 per share target price.

The next trading update is due on 13 April when the company should report on the key Easter period – if this does turn out to be a washout I would expect the shares to slip.

Will Debenhams surprise us again?

Sector peer Debenhams (LSE: DEB) saw its shares rise by 20% following an upbeat Christmas trading statement on 12 January as consumers appeared to be buying into the company’s proposition.

However, as is the case with all of the businesses under review today, the weather is hardly spring-like and I wouldn’t be surprised to see guidance lowered across the board should the weather not improve.

That said, one quarter’s trading doesn’t make an investment. Even at current prices the shares all yield over 4% and any further slide in the share price could provide an attractive entry point for savvy long-term investors.

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Dave Sullivan has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.