While the 2011 economic forecast may be looking sunnier, mother nature must have missed the memo. So much of the country has been blanketed in snow and ice the last several weeks (and may be for weeks to come), and nasty weather can have an interesting effect on retailers big and small, online and brick & mortar.

While schools, offices and roads were closed, the web becomes one of the few outlets still available to people for communication, work, and entertainment, and retailers with a strong online presence are in luck.

The East Coast cannot catch a break this winter, with storm after storm keeping snow plows busy and travelers delayed at airports since before the holidays. Has it been bad for retailers though? Not necessarily. Apparel retailers in Philadelphia actually saw a mid-week search peak on the 27th when they were in the middle of one of the worst blizzards. In fact, most retailers still posted gains in the month of January.

In the Midwest, Chicago was one of the cities that really got the worst of it with 70 mph winds, around 20 inches of snow and temperatures in the double digits below zero. From our Insights for Search tool, however, it’s clear that product search interest in the shopping category has picked up significantly in this metro area over just the past couple weeks and is continuing an upward trend into early February. “Boots”, “shoes”, and “dresses” tops the search term list here.

In Dallas, TX this month, shopping was probably the least of everyone’s concerns with Super Bowl XLV taking place this weekend and preparations for that being hindered by the thick layer of ice covering everything from roads to the Cowboys Stadium. Still though, ticket sales are climbing and event shopping took place online.

It seems that despite Mother Nature’s best efforts, strengthening online retail sales have not been set back by the sleet and snow for the first several weeks of 2011, though certainly the effects must be varied across pure-play e-tailers, multi-channel retailers and pure brick & mortar stores. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?

Posted by Tiffany Lin, The Google Retail Team