Retail Business and Commercial Liability – How to Protect Yourself from the Winter Freeze

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Protect Your Retail Business from Winter

It seems that Vancouver forgot that we don’t get below 0°C in the winter. But December’s forecast looks more like that of our eastern neighbors. For retail businesses in the region, this poses a unique threat. The season marks an especially busy time of the year, with more customers frequenting the establishment. Thus, you must be mindful of how the weather can impact not only your physical store, but everyone in front and within. Park Insurance is here to detail everything that you need to watch out for to protect your shop from the winter freeze.

3 Tips to Preparing Your Retail Business for a Harsh Winter

1. Protect Your Storefront Like You Would Your Home

Many of you exercise caution at home when the forecast calls for it. However, when it comes to your business, it can become an afterthought. Afford your retail shop the same protection you give your home. Park Insurance released this article on how to prepare your house for the winter. Many of these guidelines apply.

For instance, when the freeze comes, water pipes take a hit. Frozen pipes in the walls, floor, and ceiling of your premises can fracture, resulting in significant water damage. This can endanger customers, staff, and product. Have your pipe system inspected by a professional to ensure that they can take the brunt of extremely low temperatures. This is especially necessary for boutique shops operating in older heritage-styled buildings. Follow these additional tips (with infographic) to preventing water damage for good measure.

Detached shops also need to appraise their roof. When snow falls, it accumulates when freezing temperatures prevent melting. If you operate in an older building, consider whether or not your roof can handle the excess weight. Even if it can, there’s snowmelt to contend with. Snowmelt is a concern for Greater Vancouver. Snow is often followed by warmer daytime temperatures in our moderate climate. The snow will liquify and arrive in your gutters. If the nighttime temperatures drop below 0°C, ice dams can form. This weight can damage your gutters and pose yet another threat that brings water damage to your shop exterior and interior. Have your roof and gutters thoroughly inspected by a professional.

2. Don’t Let Slip & Falls be the Downfall of Your Business

Rule number one for any street-front retail business in the winter, is to keep the sidewalk clear. Pay close attention to the forecast. If it calls for sleet or snow, salt the entire walking area (curb included) in front of your establishment. If it calls for freezing temperatures overnight, without snow, still salt the area. The slightest bit of moisture can form ice on the track to your shop’s front door.

Also ask that neighboring shops do the same. Not doing so can add to your liability concerns. For example, if a square foot beside your designated area is slippery, and someone slips and falls onto the sidewalk in front of your store, they may attempt to deem you to be responsible.  All of a sudden, you can find yourself in court in a battle not only with the victim, but with the neighboring shop who is shirking liability.

Snow outside is also tracked into your establishment. This creates a liability hazard on the shop floor. Keep “Slippery When Wet” signs on the premises, and make sure that staff is prepared with a wet mop and cloth.

If snow accumulation outside is significant, secure a snow removal contract. Before entering into an agreement, request that the removal company provide you with a verifiable certificate of insurance. This will help account for any incidents that occur because of their own negligence.

3. Prepare for a Power Outage 

Power outages are also more common during a harsh winter. A power outage in your store can result in lost revenue, and product. Stay prepared with a back-up generator. If power loss is temporary, the generator will help keep customers in your store (and spending). The generator-powered lights will also hedge the risk of theft during a blackout.  Here are some good general tips to keep you ready for a power outage at home or at work.


Of course, none of the above will mean a thing without the right commercial insurance coverage. Small and medium retail businesses are especially susceptible during this time of the year. Please review your existing plan. If it isn’t perfectly clear that you’re prepared for all contingencies that winter can bring, contact Park Insurance right away. We’ll set you on the right path this season, one without a slippery slope or sidewalk.

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