Channel firms battled against the elements last week as it was predicted that bad weather could contribute to thousands of UK business failures this quarter.
The snow hit the UK on Sunday and wreaked havoc across the South East the following day. Businesses across London and the home counties were badly affected as workers struggled to make it in and out of the capital with road and rail transport severely disrupted.
The Federation of Small Businesses estimated that the number of absent workers was one in five nationwide. The London Chamber of Commerce claimed the inclement weather had left almost nine in 10 firms in the city operating at a reduced capacity.
Surrey was one of the worst-affected areas of the country and Ian Kilpatrick, chairman of Woking-based security distributor Wick Hill, said he had been forced to operate with a skeleton staff. “It was carnage on Monday, but people struggled their way in,” he said. “We got everything shipped out and I am really proud of their efforts.”
David Hobson, managing director of security reseller GSS, also claimed the weather had disrupted staff attendance and productivity. “A number of staff could not get to the office and we let people go home early, but we are geared up for remote working and I think we managed to get everything away,” he said.
Kilpatrick claimed the timing of the poor weather could mitigate the possible financial impact. “It is fairly fortunate that this happened at the start of the week and the start of the month,” he said. “A week before and catching up from it could have been trickier for businesses.”
Douglas McWilliams, chief executive of the Centre for Economics and Business Research, echoed this sentiment, writing in a report: “It will be relatively easy for lost productivity to be made up later in the week or month.”
But McWilliams went on to predict that the effects of bad weather over the first three months of this year could contribute to up to 3,000 UK business fa ilures.
He also indicated that, extrapolating from the UK’s daily GDP of about £4.5bn, Monday’s 20 per cent reduction in workforce could have cost the country £900m.
Richard Eglon, marketing manager at support services company Comms-care, said that distribution would be hardest hit by the snow. “Companies that rely on freight may have struggled,” he said.
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