Commercial Business Risks That Increase in the Winter

The winter may offer BC retailers lucrative opportunities to increase sales as seasonal shoppers walk the sidewalks of commercial districts with their wallets open. However, the time of the year also presents unique risks to brick and mortar shops, making insurance coverage a hot topic behind the counter. Today, Park Insurance is here with some insight into these threats so that your own business can better prepare itself to accept those sales without taking on more liability in the process.

5 Winter Season Risks Commercial Businesses in BC Need to Better Prepare For

1. Increased Risk of Slip & Fall Injury and Liability

This is the straightest line you can draw between winter weather and commercial business liability. Snow, slush, and ice surrounding (and being tracked into) the premises present significant dangers to customers and staff alike. You will need to institute a stringent slip and fall liability plan, including the following:

    • Shovel and salt – Maintain the sidewalks and steps connected to your shop, shoveling snow immediately after it falls and salting prior to forecasted precipitation. Encourage adjacent businesses to do the same, as snow or slush next to your commercial property can also result in an injury that gets both of you sued if there is any grey area about whose property it occurred on. 
    • Keep “Wet Floor” signs on the floor at all times – Place them in highly visible areas both inside of your shop and outdoors (without obstructing pedestrian traffic).
    • Devise a Slip and Fall Policy – To mitigate liability, set a firm procedure that first offers injured parties immediate medical attention, followed by an on-site incident report, prompt clean-up, and reporting to your insurers and stakeholders. 
    • Ensure adequate lighting – This allows customers and staff to notice wet spots on the floor.
    • Secure better slip and fall protectionReview your commercial liability policy with an independent insurance broker today!

View Park Insurance’s complete guide to reducing slip and fall liability.

2. Increased Chance of Criminal Activity During Closing Hours

Days are much shorter in the winter. This lack of natural light exposure exposes your business to the risk of break-ins and vandalism during closing hours as the window of opportunity for criminals is much wider. Ensure that you provide adequate lighting for the shopfront, rear area (when facing an alley) and in the store as well, even after hours. Lighting will also be appreciated by closing and/or janitorial staff in addition to delivery persons who may have to come and go in the late evening or night.

In addition, remove temptation by removing valuable items from public facing displays are night, otherwise you may return to a broken window in the AM. Even if you are diligent in this matter, it’s a good idea to secure window breakage insurance to cover you in the event of a window-entry break-in or act of vandalism. After all, being without a pane in the winter can be a real pain.

3. Increased Chance of Theft On Premises

Customers wear big and baggy clothes in the winter, making it harder to keep an eye on the few that intend to steal products and put a big dent in your bottom line. You can increase security measures by hiring security or more shop floor staff and installing visible (and theft deterring) cameras, but in the end the best way to help mitigate this risk and protect your inventory is to ensure you have the right retail insurance for your business.

4. Increased Risk of Cyber Crime

With consumer spending ramped up in November, December, and early January, a lot of digital transactions are running through your systems. This flurry of online activity attracts hackers. Some are looking to steal consumer credit information for their own use, or to install ransomware with the intent of holding your sensitive data hostage until you pay up. Unfortunately, this is simply too much to bear, with 60 percent of small businesses going out of business within 6-months of a cyber attack. That means without adequate coverage, a wintertime cyber attack on your operations could have you closed down by summer.

Not only do you risk loss from ransomware, you could face fines under the new data privacy compliance mandates. Earlier in the year, the EU adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). What you need to know, is that if one single record from a UK based customer (including a tourist in town from London, etc.) enters your system, and your system is compromised, you could face fines that run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But even more relevant to BC businesses, is the recent November 1 update to Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). The Privacy Commissioner of Canada has made it mandatory to report security breaches to the Commission in addition to all impacted individuals (i.e. your customers). Shops that don’t fall in line may face fines so big that business continuity for your brick and mortar could hit a brick wall. 

Moving forward, you must ramp up your cyber security, and perhaps even more importantly, you need to the most comprehensive cybersecurity insurance policy possible. Don’t enter the winter season without it.

5. Increased Risk of Equipment Breakdown

The harsh wind, rain, sleet, and snowfall that follows winter in BC to varying degrees can have a direct impact on your ability to run a business. Power failure and general equipment breakdown can render your business unable to accept customer transactions and the like. Prepare your business by bringing in a back-up generator. If power loss is temporary, the generator can help keep customers in the store and shopping until local power is restored. Generator-powered lights will also reduce the risk of theft during a blackout. Add another layer of protection with by adding equipment breakdown and business interruption insurance to your commercial policy. 

Beyond the equipment, machinery, and utilities in your brick and mortar space, the weather may also impact the operations of important vendors, suppliers, and delivery services, all of which you depend on to receive product and inventory you need to service customers and turn a profit. In addition to securing insurance to cover your business from such contingencies, it’s a good idea to tap into those relationships and refer your suppliers and vendors to an independent broker that can assess and cover their risk, which will benefit all parties involved. With everyone covered by more robust policies, you will have a well-oiled machine that can make it through whatever the winter season throws your way. 

Contact Park Insurance today to learn more about how we can reduce the threats to your commercial shop in the winter season.