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Mass. businesses’ losses from winter storms could near $1 billion

Boston Business Journal
By Greg Ryan

The three nor’easters that have slammed into Massachusetts over the past two weeks will cost Bay State businesses up to $950 million in sales, according to one estimate.

Local businesses on Tuesday are contending with Boston’s first official blizzard this winter, which is expected to dump up to two or more feet of snow in some parts of the state. The storm comes days after two other nor’easters that caused substantial flood and wind damage, especially on the South Shore and Cape Cod.

Planalytics, a Pennsylvania-based firm that provides weather research to businesses, estimated to the Business Journal on Tuesday that the three recent storms, combined, will have an $850 million to $950 million impact on Massachusetts businesses.

Those figures count sales lost because of the storms that will not be made up later, such as coffee that would have been purchased had a commuter gone into work and not stayed home. It does not include physical damage to stores and offices.

Small businesses are likely to be hit the hardest by the storms’ cumulative economic impact, said Evan Gold, Planalytics’ executive vice president of global services, in an email. Restaurants are losing customers and, in some cases their food is spoiling because of power outages, he said. Specialty-apparel and mall-based retailers also stand to lose more than most, according to Gold.

Home improvement stores won’t get the purchases of spring items they may have been expecting for early March, but they’ll likely gain extra purchases of shovels and ice melt, as well as buys related to repairs for property damage caused by the storms, Gold said.

On the flip side, online retailers and restaurant delivery services should be among the business segments seeing a pickup from the storms, according to Gold.

Planalytics’ model aims to quantify the impact of weather on consumer purchasing, by comparing historical purchasing data with the weather that took place at the time of purchase.

While some businesses will suffer, the storms should have a minimal impact on the Massachusetts economy as a whole over the longer term.

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