While the blizzard that hit the East Coast is over, the aftermath has just begun. According to the New York Times, while New York City has their public transportation back up and running, most areas aren’t that lucky. Officials in Maryland and Virginia were hesitant to give a timeline for when the snow would be cleared. Travel by any means is going to be difficult with ice on roads, runways and train tracks. Not only does it make it hard to get around, it makes it hard for people to get to your business.
Based on a survey we conducted last year, 31 % of small businesses suffered revenue loss in last year’s winter storms. And if your business was outside of the city, you got hit 10% harder than your urban counterparts. What can you do when conditions make it difficult for your business to make money?
1. Make sure your online presence is strong
When the weather gets bad, people go online. Being stuck inside could give you the time you need to reevaluate your website. Does it highlight your top products? Is it easy to complete a purchase? Are you capturing customers’ contact details so you can alert them to new products or sales? If your site is failing on any of these basics, it’s time to get to work. Businesses are quickly realizing that in today’s online world, relying on foot traffic isn’t sustainable. During last year’s storms, 13% of the small business owners polled saw an increase in online traffic and 61% said they spent their time shopping online. Your website and online marketing can take advantage of people staying indoors when it gets cold.
2. Rethink your offerings
Cold weather could also mean time to think. The winter storm certainly gave this Brooklyn-based entrepreneur an idea. He built a “Boutique Winter Igloo” and attempted to list it on Airbnb for $200 a night. While Airbnb removed it for not meeting occupancy standards, they did comment on how well constructed it was. A snow storm doesn’t mean you have to build something out of snow, but perhaps there’s another business idea you can take advantage of. According to our poll last year, 73% of respondents said they used take-out or meal delivery services when the weather got bad. If your area consistently gets bad weather, but doesn’t provide options for people looking to get out of the cold, maybe this is your next venture. Take advantage of the time inside and really think about your business and your market. Are there opportunities you’re missing?
3. Make a plan with your accountant
The best thing you can do for your business is to be prepared. Not every business can pivot when the weather gets bad. Rather than changing your business to accommodate the winter, just plan ahead for it. It’s one thing to have a guesstimate of how seasons impact your business, but sitting down with a financial advisor to analyze patterns of revenue and all the variables that might affect you, from shipping glitches to reductions in foot traffic, can be hugely advantageous.
We talked to Tisha Del Rosario who’s a senior accountant with EisnerAmper LLP. She highlighted why an accountant should be your first call after a storm. “If there were unfortunate damages to your business property, there can sometimes be a silver lining. You may be eligible to receive Casualty Loss Insurance recovery funds to purchase ‘Similar or Related in Service’ replacement equipment within 2 years of the event. This may not necessarily result in a taxable gain and may instead give your company a potential tax savings.”
We can’t predict when the worst storms will happen, but we can definitely prepare for them.