March 19, 2010 - Anonymous

Coldest winter in 31 years costs small businesses £7bn

UK small businesses are facing combined losses of more than £7 billion following the coldest winter since 1979, research by Lloyds TSB Commercial has found.

The survey of 1,000 small businesses found that 70 per cent had their trade affected by the extreme weather conditions. The research also highlighted that 39 per cent were directly affected (forced to close their premises or cut off by snow and ice), while 42 per cent were indirectly affected (disrupted supplies and deliveries).

Only 23 per cent of firms remained unscathed, while seven per cent said the big freeze had actually helped their business.

"Businesses have faced a double blow over the past six months," said Lloyds TSB Commercial head of external affairs, Stephen Pegge. "They have had to grapple with the downturn in trade as a result of the recession, as well as the impact of severe weather conditions."

Federation of Small Businesses chairman, John Wright, said that small firms had been particularly badly hit by the harsh winter, because many staff had been unable to make it into work due to closed roads and schools.

"Local authorities needed to do more to support small firms, including providing more salt for roads, better guidance for schools to prevent automatic closure and a more 'joined-up' approach between councils and businesses," he said.

"We believe that local authorities did not learn from last year's bad weather quickly enough," added Wright. "The relevant parties need to work together to prevent the UK from coming to a complete standstill next winter."

According to the Lloyds research, businesses in Wales suffered the most during the bad weather, with 59 per cent of firms affected. The West Midlands saw the least impact, with only 30 per cent affected.