Weather's costs greater than financial

Blake
Blake Doyle
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I am confident even the most avid snowmobiler or skier will feel no remorse to welcome the end of winter. This season has been longer and harsher than most in recent memory. We are neither conditioned nor prepared to combat Mother Nature for four full months.

Aside from the psychological distress of a never-ending winter, the impacts to the economy can be significant.

Certainly snow clearing budgets have been impacted by this winters weather, as we will be hearing in several weeks from municipal and provincial governments. Both provincial cities were into their 2014 snow-clearing budget before the end of 2013 and the province will be several million dollars over budget, I would suspect, before the last flakes are pushed around.

Business must also adapt or increase their snow clearing budgets, and snow clearing operators who budget on historic weather patterns are losing important margin in their businesses this year.

As the temperature drops the energy consumption increases. Energy distributors have been stressed all winter to keep up with demand and consumption budgets are no doubt shattered for all businesses and property owners.

Retailers were certainly affected by weather, particularly with the barrage of storms hammering businesses in the critical Christmas shopping season. In stock markets weather was offered as a common excuse during ‘earnings season' when quarterly results of publically traded companies are announced.

Impacts can be localized as well. The lost productivity of storm days directly affects businesses. If staff cannot get into the office to work, valuable productivity is lost and likely never recovered.

Businesses lose on salary investments and experience the double-whammy of losing local traffic and purchasers. Companies that work with clients outside the P.E.I. market are also challenged to service customers in areas not impacted by local weather.

Government closures cause strain when services are not offered, or deferred to a later opening. Operating costs continue to be expended even if staff is unable to make it to the office.

If you look at the days we have lost to storms this year, and not just full closures but also partial closures, business interruption costs are great.

There is another measurable impact to families that must struggle to find balance on storm days. When school is canceled, which is a more frequent occurrence than government or banking closures, scripted chains of events are thrust into chaos. For working families appropriate short-notice childcare must be secured; often at additional financial burden.

There are many factors beyond the control of business, governments or individuals - weather is chief among them. Recognizing the limited affect we have on such events can help provide perspective, and we must all adapt to the challenges and costs temporarily burdened with.

TAG: Blake Doyle is The Guardian's small business columnist. He can be reached at blake@islandrecruiting.com.

Geographic location: P.E.I.

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  • Sharon Leighton
    March 16, 2014 - 14:59

    When I was a teenager in PEI, I remember discussing winter with God. "It's just too long," I told Him. "Six months! Half the year - from November through April! If you cut off two months, I promise I'll never say a word against winter again." So I'm afraid I can't agree that four months is too much! It's exactly what I asked for.