Snow effect on the economy

Thumbnail image for Emmanuel KenningThis morning, ahead of writing my first blog for Insurance Age, I was standing on a frozen railway platform and somewhat surprised that the trains were being cancelled faster than orders for "England 2018" t-shirts. There had been no snow over night and to be fair to the train company the services earlier in the week had coped remarkably well.

As others before me have pointed out, it is moment of sadness when the sight of snow becomes an "uh-oh, how will I get to work?" moment rather than eliciting a "woo hoo let's go sledging" reaction.

I shall spare you the sob story of the trains, tubes and long walk to work - not quite a John Candy and Steve Martin re-run but close - and simply admit I appear to have joined the "uh-oh" club. On my journey I couldn't help but wonder what the cost to the economy must be of all this snow.

According to RSA it could be costing £1.2bn a day. The insurer predicted retailers, insurers and restaurants would suffer the most. With VAT going up to 20% in January retailers expecting a pre-rise spending splurge must surely be hoping for a break in the weather. Although judging by the crowds on Oxford Street it is hard to see how it could get busier.

The centre for economics and business research has also declared the impact on GDP is, very roughly, £1bn a day. However it has also pointed out that: "Much of the productivity lost is made up fairly soon after" and that "there are offsets - consumers spend more on heating and on warm clothes." With the gas meter at home ticking over faster than road runner at the peak of his powers it is hard to disagree.

Insurers get a mention too with the prediction they will eventually have to raise premiums to pay for their extra snow damage spending.

Which leaves me wondering, apart from the inconvenience, the frozen toes and the backed-up work load to fret over later in the year, is the snow really such a bad thing? After all Halfords has apparently ordered 16,600 more sledges to keep up with demand.

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