The ‘monsoon’ rain hitting UK business

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Nina Barbour

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Nina Barbour said conditions at the start of the event had been like a “monsoon”

“We had monsoon conditions at the start”, says Nina Barbour.

For many British businesses, this long spell of wet weather has been challenging and costly.

Nina Barbour is director of Bolesworth Estate, where one of the country’s biggest equestrian events went ahead last week – but was closed to the public.

“The financial implications of this are huge,” she tells BBC Radio 5 Live’s Wake Up to Money programme.

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Nina Barbour

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Muddy, wet conditions meant the equestrian event had to be closed to the public. Many businesses have been hit financially by the prolonged spell of wet weather

“We rely on sponsorship to the tune of about £300,000, trade stands to half that value, and of course the public admission,” she says, adding that all ticket holders and non-specialist traders had now been refunded.

“Our biggest worry is keeping the animals safe and dry. We have up to 800 horses on-site, in temporary stabling,” Ms Barbour adds.


It’s been a week of almost continuous rain across parts of the UK, and that’s not good news for many businesses.

By the middle of June, England and Wales had already had more than the average amount of monthly rainfall, and that could be affecting customer behaviour.

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Retail figures for June suggest a fall in the number of people leaving their homes to go shopping

Data from retail monitor Springboard suggests that the number of people visiting the shops is down more than 5% compared to the same time in 2018.

Parts of Lincolnshire flooded this week and are still under water – nearly 600 homes have been evacuated there.

But not everyone is affected. Scotland has received just over half its normal June rainfall in the first half of the month, the Met Office said.

‘Festival nightmare’

Chaotic scenes of festival-goers caked in mud are as synonymous with the erratic British summer as strawberries and cream.

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Heavy rain at Festival No. 6 in north Wales in 2016 led to hundreds of cars getting stuck in a flooded car park and large scale compensation claims from festival-goers

Paul Reed, chief executive of the Association of Independent Festivals, which represents 65 events around the UK, tells the BBC that running a festival “is already quite a risky business model.”

Add extreme weather to the mix and it becomes “a nightmare”, he says.

‘Only a certain threshold for discomfort’

In July 2018 Camp Bestival was cancelled because of high winds and rain, while a particularly rain-drenched Festival No.6 led to hundreds of cars getting stuck in a muddy car park and large scale compensation claims as a result.

And music fans left this year’s Download festival after torrential rain reduced the site to a “mud-bath”.

“People only have a certain threshold for discomfort,” Mr Reed tells the BBC.

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Heavy rain and high winds put an end to Camp Bestival in July 2018

“There’s the knock-on effect of that… insurance premiums are going up, and then dealing with the fallout, with festival-goers, refunds, trying to restore public confidence.

“Underwriters are getting a lot more nervous with every cancellation – understandably,” he says.

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More than 580 homes in and around the Lincolnshire town of Wainfleet were evacuated after heavy rains led to the River Steeping bursting its banks

What’s the weather doing?

Analysis: BBC Weather presenter Simon King

We’ve got a bit of a spell of drier weather over the next few days. Overall though, looking at the short-term forecast, we’re not expecting any week or two spell of warm, dry weather.

The weather in the UK is defined by its pressure pattern.

Last year we just had higher pressure consistently across the UK for three or four weeks whereas so far, this June, it’s been dominated by low pressure and that brings us the wetter and cooler weather.

Some places have had three times their month’s worth of rainfall in the space of seven days.

Small businesses have felt the effects too. But Georgia Duffy, who owns a bookshop in Harrogate, finds that while the recent rainy spell has caused a drop in customer visits – particularly from tourists – retail has other problems that “are not just as simple as the weather”.

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Georgia Duffy

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Bookshop owner Georgia Duffy said trade was mixed generally but still better than how it was last year when she posted a tweet asking for public support

“Sometimes, with the rain, we have people coming in for reading material because they’re not going for days out,” she said.

Georgia Duffy made headlines last June when she tweeted that her business had had “the worst day ever” for sales.

Louise Stewart from the Federation of Small Businesses said firms “need to be more resilient” to the wet weather.

“They should be looking at having a resilience plan in place,” she told the BBC.

A resilience plan looks at the the potential impact of severe weather on different parts of a business, including its supply chain; flood risk; and flexible working options for staff.

Does weather like this affect the economy?

First there was the Beast from the East in 2018, then the joint hottest summer on record, and then winter temperatures in February 2019 soared to all-time highs.

The Beast hit the UK’s construction sector, fuel sales and high street shopping. Many of us stayed in, turned up the heating and shopped online.

Retail footfall figures also fluctuate and can be affected by the weather.

There was a big fall when this latest spell of wet weather started, before picking up towards the end of the week when conditions improved. Footfall last week was 1% lower than the week before when the weather was drier.

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But some businesses are not so fond of warm, dry spells either

On the other hand, unexpectedly hot weather may boost customer confidence, but it can be damaging too.

Following the heatwave last June and July, energy company SSE warned that its first-quarter profits would be £80m lower than expected after household demand for energy fell and a lack of wind affected its turbines.

And Superdry blamed poor performance at the end of 2018 on unseasonably warm weather conditions that made it harder to shift winter clothes.

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