Businesses take brunt of icy weather

Hauliers are feeling the full brunt of the Arctic freeze with business grinding to a virtual standstill as a result of severely restricted operations at the Port of Felixstowe.

FELIXSTOWE: Hauliers are feeling the full brunt of the Arctic freeze with business grinding to a virtual standstill as a result of severely restricted operations at the Port of Felixstowe.

They are among the losers in what has been a mixed picture for businesses across Suffolk as a result of the prolonged wintry spell.

Business leaders said firms in the county were responding with “characteristic common sense” to the unusual conditions, but nearly three quarters said their activities had been disrupted by the weather.

Shops, garages, electricians, fuel companies and home-based small businesses were among those thought to be doing well across Suffolk through the cold spell. Retailers were seeing less footfall, but this was being offset by bigger spends, particularly on essential items.

But haulage firms, including Felixstowe-based K&M Haulage and Wincanton, which has operations across the country, were among those hardest hit after the port was forced to restrict its operations.

Karl Harrison, chief executive officer at K&M, said: “It's having a terrible effect on the company. Obviously, the port has not worked now for two days and we have got vehicles standing idle. It just has a terrible financial implication on everybody at the port.”

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Paul Davey, head of corporate affairs at the Port of Felixstowe, said: “We are significantly affected at the moment on the container side.

“We normally handle something like 5,000 to 6,000 containers a day and we are handling nothing like that number.”

John Dugmore, chief executive of Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, praised employers and employees for their efforts.

“Businesses and their employees are responding with characteristic common sense,” he said. “They are reporting relatively few absences, and high numbers of staff working from home.”

Paul Clement, executive director of Ipswich Central, added: “I think where the pressure point might come is if it lasts for a week or two. Then I think retailers could find it quite difficult.”

EMPLOYEES working less hours as a result of the big freeze will affect businesses in Suffolk, it was claimed today.

Kim Brown, chair of the Ipswich and Suffolk Small Business Association (ISSBA), said many employees were working fewer hours than they would normally, and this, combined with increased heating costs, would have an effect on firms' bottom line.

“Obviously, as an employer you have to be aware of people getting in and home safely so you have to be flexible so there's a cost involved in that,” she said.

But adverse conditions such as these were often when small businesses came into their own, with the benefits of home working and good use of technology.

Local shops, electricians, garages and fuel companies were among those she predicted could be doing well.

“An electrician I spoke to this week said they are extremely busy,” she said. “There are always businesses that benefit and businesses that suffer.”

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