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Greenberg: The Most Important Earnings Lesson from Chipotle

By: Herb Greenberg | 04/17/14 - 10:14 AM EDT

Stocks in this article: CMG

SAN DIEGO (TheStreet) -- With Chipotle's CMG same-store sales up an astonishing 13.5% during some of the worst winter months in recent or even distant memory: Think twice when you see any company from this point on in this earnings cycle blame the weather.

Remember: If there were to ever be an earnings cycle retailers and restaurant operators use to blame the weather, it's this one. Even Chipotle, in the risk factors in the fine print of its earnings release, says that "the potential effects of inclement weather" could impact results.

Reality: If the weather's not hurting Chipotle, then why is everybody else likely to gripe about it? Because this quarter it's a free pass. And for some companies, like truckers, railroads and airlines, it's real.

But truth be told, consumers and even businesses often defer, and don't cancel, their purchases.

If you normally go to Chipotle on Tuesday, but couldn't get there because of the snow, you go on Thursday, instead. Couldn't get to the mall Saturday? You go the following Saturday.

Couldn't get your hernia fixed because you couldn't get to the hospital on Monday? (Seriously, some analysts had the gall to blame Intuitive Surgical's ISRG miss on the weather.) You go the following week.

The ultimate reality check comes via Jim Ryan, CEO of W.W. Grainger, a supplier to industrial and commercial companies, who had this to say: "We are encouraged by the strong finish in March and our solid operating performance in a quarter that was marked by several disruptions from severe winter weather in January and February." I rest my case.

-- Written by Herb Greenberg in San Diego

Herb Greenberg, editor of Herb Greenberg's Reality Check, is a contributor to CNBC. He does not own shares, short or trade shares in an individual corporate security. He can be reached at herbonthestreet@thestreet.com.

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