No business likes snow business

Monday's snowfalls may have delighted our inner seven-year-olds, but they cost UK businesses a fortune...

Last Updated: 06 Nov 2012

OK, so there’s a certain novelty value to waking up on a Monday morning to find your street under a foot of snow – and even to crunching that virgin powder for the first few steps as you leave the house. Sadly, at this point reality kicks in, and you realise that instead of spending the day throwing snowballs at the neighbours, you have to try and get to work on a day when the entire public transport system has ground to a halt - forcing you to walk for hours in conditions that polar bears would consider inhospitable. Worse still, if you did make it to the office, you probably found that nobody else had bothered getting out of bed. And all of this adds up to a very expensive day for the UK economy...

The Federation of Small Businesses, for instance, reckons that the extreme weather conditions in the UK on Monday will cost the economy about £1.2bn – on the grounds that an average bank holiday costs the economy £6bn, and about 20% of the workforce will probably have done nothing of any use today (a generous assumption, we reckon). Coincidentally, that’s more or less exactly the sum the Government has set aside to help small businesses with its SME fund – so this entire public spending programme, with all its concomitant hassles, will just about get us back to where we were on Sunday night. Pretty depressing, right? And if the weather is just as bad on Tuesday – as the forecasters say it will be – we’ll be a further £1.2bn down.

The FSB also suggested that as people barricade themselves in front of their fires (or surround themselves with hot water bottles, depending on their sensitivity to the credit crunch), local retail businesses will also suffer: ‘People make do with what they've got at home, they don't go out and buy a sandwich,’ says spokesman Stephen Alambritis, who clearly wasn’t one of the several hundred people ahead of MT in the queue in Morrisons this lunchtime.

Of course it’s not all doom and gloom. The development of technology and remote working arrangements will allow many office-based staff to log in from the comfort of their sofas (forcing them to postpone snowball fights until lunchtime, ahem). Not all of the business lost today will disappear into thin air – much of it will simply be delayed. And online retailers and utility companies will probably get a boost (like they really need it, of all people).

Still, it must be said: disruption like this is not exactly ideal at the best of times, let alone when the economy's in its current calamitous state...

In today's bulletin:
BP slips up - profits rise 'only' 39%
Vodafone cheers as sterling quarter adds £1.8bn
Football clubs do roaring trade
Fingers in tills: UK fraud cases on the rise
No business likes snow business

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