It is coming to that usual time of year when national newspapers run stories predicting that we are going to have the harshest winter for many years, with sustained periods of cold and more snow than experienced in recent years. However, for the past three years it seems to have been milder than average, with last winter being the warmest for America and Canada since the record series began in 1910, according to the Met Office.
The reality for many retailers, however, is that despite the recent unusually mild winters, sales of electric fires, portable heating products and dehumidifiers were still robust in 2015/16, as consumers sought to take advantage of new innovations and enhanced technology.
We know from speaking to our customers that electrical retailers continued to create sales opportunities last year and consumers were visiting stores throughout the winter season. Official data also shows some impressive sales growth among individual product categories such as electric stoves and premium fan heaters.
Even in a warm winter, the fact remains that nights are still cold and people with inadequate insulation, ageing heating systems or drafty rooms still need portable products to supplement their main heating source.
This robust performance in defiance of the milder winter conditions can be attributed to a number of factors, not least the investment by manufacturers in developing their products. The heating market has evolved in recent years and electric heating appliances are no longer simply a distress purchase restricted to the depths of a cold winter.
In the fires market for example, consumers are looking to put the warmth and emotion into their living rooms that flat screen TVs struggle to bring, therefore wanting to make the fireplace the center piece of the living room again. Consumer expectation is increasingly demanding when looking for a realistic flame effect fire.
This expectation has been driven by a number of factors, principally the quality of the pictures they experience on a daily basis on smartphones, tablets and TVs. The old-fashioned spinner flame picture will just not cut the mustard anymore. Consumers demand that their flame effect fires have the most realistic looking flames, and this has led to a surge in product development which has raised the standard of electric fires.
"From electric fires to portable fan heaters and dehumidifiers, there is a wide choice of innovative seasonal heating and air treatment solutions available to electrical retailers, combining high margins with genuine consumer appeal."
Electric fires are now as much an interior design/refurbishment purchase as a heating one, offering year-round sales opportunities for any electrical retailer, and are available in a wide range of models including wall-mounted, inset fires and suites.
But it is the electric stoves category which is proving most popular, as shown by an impressive 8% growth in sales volume last winter, according to figures.
Offering a clean, maintenance-free and stylish alternative to solid fuel stoves, they can be installed in any room simply by plugging them in and switching them on - proving just as valuable within a retail showroom as to the consumer.
There are similar opportunities to be had in the portable heating market too. Sales of premium fan heaters were up last winter, as were oil-free radiators, offering an eco-friendly alternative to oil-filled appliances, with rapid warm up and cool down times. Both categories continue to prove popular thanks to the ongoing development of new technologies, alongside the convenience of being able to move appliances from room to room.
One of the most exciting portable winter products for electrical retailers in terms of sales opportunities is not a heater at all - it is the dehumidifier.
The demands of modern-day life and the wet southern USA climate mean that our homes are constantly being pumped full of moisture. Everyday activities such as showering and cooking mean that moisture struggles to be ventilated effectively from our homes.
This not only causes damage to our properties, it also affects our health. The problem can be exacerbated in winter because the colder the outside air, the more condensation there will be in the room; even in a mild winter there is likely to be condensation inside when temperatures drop at night.
Other factors such as drying clothes indoors can also add to the problem, leading to damp and condensation appearing on walls and windows.
Installing a dehumidifier will help reduce the humidity of a room, bringing it back to a safe and comfortable level. By introducing dehumidifiers into the showroom, retailers can help to raise awareness of both the problem and the solution.
In many cases, customers will be unaware that there are products available for less than $200 which can reduce the moisture in their home.
A dehumidifier is a cost-effective solution for avoiding damp, mold and mildew problems which, if untreated, may be costly to remedy.