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As the climate becomes increasingly unpredictable, Ian Michaelwaite says more businesses should factor the weather into their planning.

As the British summer slowly gets its act together and our thoughts turn to holidays, lazy days in the garden and the sound of children happily playing under the sprinkler (hosepipe ban allowing), a part of us knows that summer and sunshine aren’t always the most reliable of bedfellows. So when we plan our weekends, we always have a Plan B up our sleeves: ‘We’re off to the beach for a barbecue…unless it rains, then we’ll go to the cinema and take the kids for a burger afterwards’. While making the decision to hit the beach or the local multiplex is one that can be taken on Saturday morning, most of us will be reasonably certain by Thursday of what the weekend will bring, simply by following the weather forecasts.

We take all this for granted, which makes it so odd that very few companies have weather-related Plan Bs. Most of them let weather happen to them, rather than planning ‘what if’ scenarios to prepare for conditions that can cause disruption and loss. Retail is the one area where weather really is an established and important part of planning as it can affect approximately

5% of turnover. It is a given that hot, dry weather will increase sales of ice cream, salad and soft drinks, but without retailers tracking sales against historic weather conditions we wouldn’t know that soft drinks and ice creams plateau at 23-24°c and sales of squash and frozen ice pops start to accelerate. Nor would we know that the sun boosts the sales of hair removal creams and women’s razors by up to an eye watering 1400%, give or take a whisker or two. In other sectors weather has

poor weather? These are only truly answerable with historical analysis of weather conditions related to key performance indicators, and once that analysis is in place, weather forecasts can become an important part of your business planning armoury. With these building blocks, you have a new tool to improve efficiency through effective resource management and planning, and marketing opportunities to exploit weather-related products and services. On top of all that, you’ll be that little bit less worried about what happens when the weather bites. Of course sometimes you just have to lump it: there are time-critical events that you can’t change, such as sales promotions, outdoor events like concerts, catered parties and major celebrations. Knowing the weather in advance doesn’t help much if it’s going to be a washout, although you can mitigate the risk (not least ordering in some brollies and tents.) But once you understand the difference weather makes to your bottom line, you can insure against the worst case scenario, whether it is the number of snow days likely during a winter sales promotion, or, literally, rain on your parade. You will be able to


just as much impact but doesn’t get anywhere near the same recognition as a key performance driver. When it comes to your business, can you confidently answer weather-related questions? Are service calls affected by weather type? Is staff performance and attendance affected by the temperature? Do ‘sickies’ rise on sunny days? Is website traffic impacted by

quantify potential losses and take out a policy to help rebalance the books if the worst happens. So next time you take your first look out the window and realise you have to change your plans, ask yourself what your customers’ reaction will be, and how you can best exploit it. Or rather, how you might have been able to exploit it better if you’d had a weather eye out.


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