Warm or cold, wet or dry, weather impacts almost every industry as 70% of businesses are exposed to unexpected variations that influence demand for goods and services. The financial losses caused by adverse weather that did not seem material enough to have an impact or to require being managed a decade ago, may now do so as the frequency and severity of abnormal weather have dramatically increased. A surge in investigating the contribution of weather to financial distress is also prompted by more reliable weather data, and the development of new risk mitigation tools. Drawing upon the UK’s retail sectors for empirical evidence, this paper provides a methodology to determine the contribution of weather to sales and to structure financial products to reduce the consequences of adverse weather on expected cash-flows. Our results open new research opportunities for weather to be considered as an additional cause of business failure.
A drop in sales and earnings may, at some point, reduce the ability of a business to meet its financial obligations, and create a state of financial distress, which is the step preceding business failure and reorganization (Gordon, 1971; Stiglitz, 1972). Most failures involve some interaction between external forces in the environment of the company, and the choices made by management to respond to them (Moulton, Thomas, & Pruett, 1996). In particular, the weather is an external factor of growing importance and consequence. Over the last two decades, as a result of climate change, the frequency and intensity of abnormal weather patterns and extreme weather events have significantly increased (WMO, 2013; IPCC, 2014). Today, weather risks, over which managers have no control, affect approximately 70% of companies worldwide (Hanley, 1999; Dutton, 2002; Larsen, 2006). Abnormal weather events act as environmental jolts (Amankwah-Amoah, Boso, & Antwi-Agyei, 2016) that disrupt the financial performance of companies operating in retail, consumer goods, apparel, transportation, utilities, food processing to name a few (Lazo, Lawson, Larsen, & Waidmann, 2011). In a more volatile environment, companies are more likely to exit the market, and the greater the uncertainty, the higher the exit rate (Anderson & Tushman, 2001).