Insurance · 16 January 2017

Almost half of small UK firms are unprepared for severe weather

Severe weather
UK businesses lose an average 14.7 hours a year due to severe weather

Despite new research revealing that two-thirds of small firms suffer from a loss of revenue after severe weather, some 44 per cent of owners have no contingency plan in place to continue trading when the weather turns.

The study, conducted by insurance firm Towergate, found that small companies in Britain lost an average 14.7 hours a year as a result of severe weather.

However, a closer look revealed a more significant impact on the engineering and constructions sectors. Small firms in these outdoor industries stood to lose three working days every year every because of bad weather.

Recent bouts of heavy snow and rain have hit the UK, resulting in cancelled flights from Heathrow and Gatwick, as well as evacuations on the east coast of England where the army has been called in to assist residents.

The main cause of disruption for almost a quarter of businesses was the inability of employees to get into work, while 15 per cent reported that supply chain issues affected trading.

Too wet to shop?

For small businesses relying on footfall and customers through the doors, severe weather poses an even greater threat to profits.

Retailers that adopt a “bricks and clicks” strategy – using a web presence alongside the in-store offering – can combat against this additional loss of revenue by reaching their customers even when they decide to stay indoors.

No insurance

The study also found that over two-thirds of small firms remained uninsured from the effects of severe weather. It was estimated that the average small business risked damage to property and assets worth £523,934 from flooding, high winds and heavy snow.

Commenting on the findings, Towergate’s advisory CEO, Joe Thelwell, warned small business owners to ensure that proper continuity plans were in place to protect against “lost business and unexpected bills” as a result of severe weather damage.

“With millions of people’s livelihoods depending on SMEs, it is crucial that these businesses take steps to better prepare for bad weather so they can get up and running as soon as possible,” Thelwell said in a statement.

“Practically, that could include backing-up computer systems and records, identifying contingency premises or taking out specific policies.” 

The below table, provided by Towergate, demonstrates the regional breakdown of businesses that suffer the most from severe weather.

Region Percentage of small firms with lost revenue
due to bad weather
Percentage of small firms without insurance
for bad weather
Yorkshire 79 66
Scotland 74 55
Midlands 71 64
North West 68 66
London 67 69
UK Average 65 69
South East 65 76
North East 64 82
East 62 70
South West 58 70
Northern Ireland 58 67
Wales 53 72

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Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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