By Kate Brown
Early last week we saw Storm Emma hit the UK in full force. Widespread freezing conditions meant that some main routes were rendered impassable and driving conditions were treacherous. People were urged to stay indoors in order to stay safe and stay warm.
Storm Emma particularly impacted areas such as retailing and construction, which may have seen the forecasted 0.4% GDP growth for the first three months of 2018 halved. Chief adviser to the forecasting group EY item club, economist Howard Archer, too predicted a 0.1%-0.2% reduction in the UK’s first quarter GDP if the severe weather had persisted.
Phil Dorrell, retail expert, described the severe weather as a “disaster” for the high street as more people were staying at home and shopping online. The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) said many high streets looked like ghost towns over the past week. Managing partner of Retail Remedy, Mr Dorrell, stated “anything that takes footfall away from shops reduces spend, and pushes spend towards the internet”. The FSB’s chairman, Mike Cherry, predicted “the financial cost of severe weather events on small firms averages at around £7000 for each affected business”. This comes at a particularly bad time for the UK economy when many have been affected by increasing employment costs, rises in business rates and the negative effects of the weak pound.
Although many employees found they could not get to work due to the weather disruption, the increasing ability to work from home would help limit the economic damage of Storm Emma, stated Howard Archer. However, with workers in the construction industry forced to go home and not able to work, experts say this industry could have lost up to £2bn over the three worst weather days.