Credit: Rentokil

Pests cost businesses £1.7bn a year - says pest control company

Who you gonna call? Rentokil counts the costs of rats, wasps and cockroaches to UK Plc's bottom line.

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 17 Sep 2015

For a nation that famously loves its animals, we really don’t like animals. If it’s in a commercial context and it’s not cute then there’s sure to be trouble (when was the last time you heard anyone say ‘aw, look at that wasp, it’s just adorable’?). There’s little more likely to deter a repeat purchase, after all, than a juicy fly in your soup or a pestilent rat hibernating in the towel you just so thoughtfully bought for your mother’s birthday.

Infestations by these and other nasties cost British businesses an estimated £1.2bn in lost revenue and a further £573m in increased costs in 2014, according to new research released today – by leading pest control company Rentokil.

The report, conducted for Rentokil by economics consultancy the CEBR, surveyed 212 British companies (not exactly the broadest sample we've ever seen) as part of an effort to estimate worldwide losses from pests. A whopping 92% said they’d experienced at least one pest infestation over the past five years, with the average being three such outbreaks.

The negative impact was heaviest on staff morale, with 33% of surveyed firms experiencing this problem. Unsurprising really – a plague of locusts afflicting the IT department isn’t going to make the guy explaining why your password isn’t working any more cheerful, is it?

There were more tangible effects too. One in five reported physical damage to goods, while 18% had to increase maintenance and repair costs and 26% lost at least five working days a year from the disruption. That isn’t to mention the reputational damage.

Clearly, the impact will depend on the kind of business being spoken to. Restaurants, hotels and food warehouses will obviously be particularly vulnerable to such threats. Actuaries not so much.

A total of 42% of the firms surveyed were in the food business, whether public facing or not. The research found that food businesses were less likely to have been affected (or to have admitted as much) by mice, rats and ants, but more likely to have fallen victim to cockroaches and flies. Yuck...

The reason that food firms did perhaps surprisingly well in Rentokil’s report (they also experienced shorter periods of disruption from outbreaks) is because they tend to be far more proactive than non-food businesses, for obvious reasons. Nonetheless, the issue appears to affect all sectors in one way or another.

Coincidentally, Rentokil was able to suggest a handy solution to this rather disgusting problem...

‘In the digital age, one negative review or bad employee experience can potentially be seen or read by thousands of people, so it’s more important than ever to keep pests at bay,’ said Rentokil Pest Control’s Head of Technical Training Academy David Cross. ‘There are simple, practical steps that all businesses and workplaces can take to discourage pest activity, but in the event of a serious problem it’s always best to call in the professionals.’

Ah. What a convenient point to end on.


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