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Small business winners and losers this winter

As temperatures plummet across the eastern seaboard, retailers and businesses relying on winter trade are finally receiving the cool turn they’ve eagerly been awaiting.

In Sydney June was the city’s third warmest in 155 years of records according to Brett Dutschke, senior meteorologist at Weatherzone.

The late-onset of cool weather has meant businesses from retailers selling winter clothing, to heating appliances, and ‘wintery’ foods, through to ski-fields operators, seasonal producers, and fire-wood sellers have all felt the pinch.

“This is having a huge impact on retail turnover, margins and stock holdings,” Russell Zimmerman, chief executive of the Australian Retailers Association, said of the weather.

“It’s being felt across the industry, from those selling winter coats and boots, to the kitchenwares business, such as soup makers and crockpots, to electric blankets and heaters. Even if we get a sharp cold spell, most people will now wait for the sales to buy new items that they may only use for a couple of months.”

Yet it’s not all been doom and gloom at the hands of the weather. For example, the late-onset winter has been a boon for oyster growers in New South Wales.

David Maidment, who operates an oyster lease on Narooma’s Wagonga Inlet, told ABC Rural that oysters are “fat” and buttery due to the prolonged warm weather contributing to one of the “better growing seasons in quite a while.” Although the warm weather has come to an abrupt halt, water temperatures in the region’s lakes and estuaries is around two degrees warmer than what is normally expected for this time of the year.

Despite the optimism, there is still the “bear in the cupboard that we don’t like to mention,” and that is Winter Mortality Syndrome [MDS], which all oyster growers like Mr Maidment fear. “We have to cross that bridge yet,” Mr Maidment said, adding it’s still too early to tell if it is going to be a significant event.

Employee productivity falters through winter

It’s not just stock that can be difficult to move in the winter months, but employees too. Indeed the so-called ‘winter blues’ do indeed exist according to the just-released Australian Weathering the Workplace report from Thermos.

The survey data revealed that only 33 per cent of Australians believe the winter months don’t have an impact on their productivity, and over a third (37 per cent) find it difficult to get in to a morning rhythm when the mercury drops.

Paul Fitzgerald, Thermos Australia Marketing Manager, said the report provides an interesting snapshot into the influence of seasons on workplace productivity.

“We all know it can be hard to get out of bed and start moving when it’s cold outside, however this study suggests that Australians feel the affects of winter more than most realise.

“Although our winters don’t really compare with the likes of North America or Scandinavia, it’s clear that the weather still impacts our attitudes and workplace behaviours. Come June, when the days are getting shorter and darker, it’s not uncommon for some to feel lower levels of energy, while others experience poor moods; more commonly known as the ‘winter blues’,” says Fitzgerald.

The report also found that 17 per cent of Australians are more likely to leave their desks to make a hot drink when its cold, while a further 14 per cent of respondents are distracted by the weather when at work.

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Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie Zillman

Stephanie is the editor-at-large of Dynamic Business. Stephanie brings with her a passion for journalism, business, and new ideas. On her days off, you might find her reading a book on the beach.

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