Stormy weather can spell disaster for small businesses. Drapers looks at the potential impacts and how to mitigate them.
Although cold and stormy winter weather earlier this season was welcomed by fashion and footwear retailers – lifting sell-throughs of coats, boots and knitwear – severely inclement conditions can cause chaos for smaller businesses.
After Storm Dylan struck the UK on New Year’s Eve, Storm Eleanor hit Ireland in early January. Thousands of homes and businesses – including several fashion independents – were left without power, and buildings were badly damaged by winds of up to 100 miles per hour. There was flooding across the UK after rivers burst their banks, and coastal areas were hit by tidal surges.
Research carried out by the Federation of Small Businesses, published after severe flooding hit the UK in 2015, found that two-thirds of small businesses had been negatively affected by severe weather in the previous three years. Yet only a quarter of businesses with fewer than 10 staff had a resilience plan in place that included adverse weather. The average cost of severe weather for each affected business over this period was almost £7,000.
As well as damage to property and stock, retailers in affected areas can suffer from lost business and disruption to their suppliers and utilities.
Drapers speaks to some independents that have been hit by severe weather, and finds out what the advice is when it comes to protecting your business.
Independents’ experiences of severe weather
Seán Kelly, assistant manager of clothing and footwear independent DC Store in Galway
Galway floods every year. We had to close for a day and a half when Storm Ophelia hit [in October 2017]. Storm Eleanor led to flooding making its way up Quay Street. We had to close early because the town was so quiet – we were losing money on staff wages and overheads.
In October 2016 we had major flooding, which ruined a whole wall of stock worth upwards of £2,500 upwards. It took us five working days to clean up and repair the damage. We remained open during that time, and customers were very understanding. We had to repaint that section of the store and reseal the roof, and now we no longer keep stock in that area.
Mary-Claire O’Sullivan, manager of designer boutique Samui in Cork
Our shop didn’t suffer any damage or flooding from Storm Ophelia, but we had to shut for one day because it would have been irresponsible to bring staff into work. It affected sales for the whole week because the town was deadly quiet because of flooding in lower areas. We also missed out on deliveries that week – lots were sent back because the shop was shut or they couldn’t reach us.
Janet Benefield, owner of womenswear independent Two by Two in Ulverston, Cumbria
We haven’t had flooding in Ulverston, but there has been some in the outlying districts of Cumbria. If there is any mention of floods or snow in the surrounding area people don’t like to go out. So, even though we weren’t directly hit by the flooding, indirectly it had a big impact on our business.
Sukhy Rai, owner of unisex boutique Monty Smith in Cheltenham
We were hit by snow on 27 December. It was quite deep and it caught everybody by surprise – all the roads and pavements where in chaos. We made a path to the high street from our shop, but people stayed away because they didn’t want to venture out and risk breaking a leg. It really affected our business.
Be prepared for extreme weather
Put a resilience plan in place
If you have checked your flood risk and found yourself to be in a high-risk area, there are steps you can take to prepare for bad weather.
Building Research Establishment, a charity-owned organisation that investigates building materials and methods of construction for new housing, recommends that a basic resilience plan should include installing flood doors, flood barriers and air brick covers, waterproofing brickwork, and moving vulnerable features, such as plug sockets, above floor level.
Check your insurance
The Know Your Flood Risk campaign advises that, once you have assessed your level of risk, you should check you are sufficiently insured, as flood damage is not always included as standard. Make sure the policy not only covers damage to stock and premises, but also any interruptions to trading. You can usually obtain this as part of a business insurance package or add it to an existing policy. By taking risk-reducing measures, you may be able to cut your premium or excess.
If the worst happens
The Federation of Small Businesses has produced a checklist for small businesses that have been hit by flooding:
- If your electricity, gas or water supply has been affected, ask your utility company for an estimate of when it will be reinstated.
- If your property is flooded, turn off all your amenities at the mains.
- If possible, move any undamaged stock to higher ground in case of further rises in water levels.
- When safe to do so, take photographs of any damage (the more the better). This will help when making an insurance claim.
- Communication is key, to both your customers and your supply chain.