Thursday 23 March 2017

Arctic weather 'is costing the economy €460m a week'

French tourist Maxence Baly feeds the pigeons outside St Stephen's Green after the gardens were closed due to the snow and ice. Photo: DAMIEN EAGERS
French tourist Maxence Baly feeds the pigeons outside St Stephen's Green after the gardens were closed due to the snow and ice. Photo: DAMIEN EAGERS

Aideen Sheehan Consumer Correspondent

THE big freeze is costing business €460m a week because of missing staff, lost sales and reduced production.

The festive spending spree retailers and restaurants were hoping would kick off in earnest this weekend looks unlikely.

And businesses are desperately hoping the thaw will come soon enough next week to allow consumers make up for lost time.

While some of the losses suffered so far will be made up once normal conditions resume, others cannot be recovered, the country's main employers' group claimed yesterday.

An IBEC survey of 400 businesses showed that the retail losses would amount to €130m a week.

And it estimated that losses to other services such as restaurants, pubs, hotels, and hairdressers would be around €200m.

Lost production in manufacturing would also amount to €130m a week, according to the survey.

The cost of absenteeism and shorter working hours as staff get in late and leave early would be around €170m a week, though this cannot be added to the total tally as it has already been factored into the losses set out in particular sectors, IBEC said.

"While the cost has been substantial, it would have been significantly higher were it not for the improved response from government and local authorities," said IBEC's director of policy, Brendan Butler.

Well over 50pc of businesses rated the response of the Government and local authorities to the weather as good or very good compared with an approval rating of between 16pc and 31pc last January.

Late arrival of staff was the number one problem for 83pc of companies, while over half reported difficulties delivering goods to customers, and two-thirds had problems travelling to their own customers.

Fever

Less than 9pc of staff had been absent from work due to better road treatment and public transport, but this would have worsened along with weather conditions as the week progressed.

Business at restaurants is down 30-40pc as Christmas party bookings are cancelled and diners head home early rather than eating out, the Restaurants Association of Ireland said.

What should be a huge festive weekend for the trade is turning into a damp squib and many restaurants have been closing early this week because there isn't enough business around, said the association's chief executive, Adrian Cummins.

"This should be a bumper weekend but instead everyone is heading home early so there's been a lot of cancellations," he said.

Some customers were rebooking to have Christmas get-togethers later in the month, so restaurateurs were just hoping the weather would improve in time to allow this, Mr Cummins added.

Impulse shopping has also been badly hit, while shops have been forced to shut their doors early as both staff and consumers need to get home, said the Dublin City Centre Business Association's chief, Tom Coffey.

"People will come back to do their Christmas shopping, but you cannot sell a cup of coffee to someone who's not there, and people aren't going make spur of the moment purchases if they're not out and about," he said.

However, Dublin Chamber of Commerce insisted that shoppers would return to the city today as weather conditions improve and people made up for lost shopping time.

Chamber chief executive Gina Quin said she expected retailers in the city centre would ring up €15m today as consumers made big ticket purchases after getting cabin fever during the week.

Irish Independent

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