Winter weather inventory risks can pose a serious threat for businesses. In early 2021, a single winter storm caused an estimated $15 billion in insured losses. Your business may be at greater risk if your product is out in the open and exposed to the elements.

Winter weather inventory risks are hard to predict and can affect your inventory at any point in your supply chain, so it’s important to understand the dangers that exist and properly manage winter weather inventory risks for your business.

Timing and Threats

Winters are often unpredictable. Some years are mild, with barely any snow. Other years, winters are harsh, bringing freezing temperatures and heavy snow into areas not used to seeing it. Forecasts can change from week to week, with a shifting variety of risks facing your business.

Low Temperatures

  • Winter months see temperatures that range from cool to well below freezing. From early fall to late spring, freeze forecasts can appear with little warning.
  • Extended exposure to extreme cold can damage wood, leather, glass, plastics, electronics, batteries, engine components and more.
  • Even cool temperatures can promote mold and mildew growth in damp conditions. These problems are more likely when inventory that hasn’t been winterized is stored out in the open.

Rain, Snow and Ice

  • Winter precipitation can take any form depending on the current temperature.
  • Snowfall and ice accumulation is difficult to predict and prepare for and digging out of a major storm can take days.
  • Problems caused by winter precipitation are many.
    • Water intrusion is possible with cracks, tears and bad seals.
    • Excessive snowmelt can even lead to flash flooding.
    • Heavy snowfall can also cause roofs and awnings to buckle and collapse, causing exposure to the elements for protected inventory.
    • Both ice and snow can down tree limbs, directly damaging inventory below, as well as taking out power and blocking access roads with debris.
    • A large winter storm can bring a city to standstill for days and lead to business delays and interruptions.

Winter weather can impact your inventory day or night, during transit, receiving, handling or storage. It’s important to consider these risks and take steps to protect your product from the weather.

Steps to Manage Winter Weather Inventory Risks

Protecting your inventory involves considering the risks from different angles and using a holistic approach to guard against damage.

1. Review Your Insurance

Take the time to read your policy documents before winter weather arrives. Check that your coverage is up to date, make sure all necessary parties are listed as named insureds, review your limits and deductibles, note endorsements and exclusions, and make sure you understand the process for filing a claim.

Most inventory insurance covers perils such as:

  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Hail
  • Earthquake
  • Wind

This means that you’re protected from most losses due to winter storm damage.

If you have questions about your policy or coverage, contact your insurer to make sure you’ll be prepared for the winter. It’s beneficial to understand where you are most vulnerable and what steps are required to meet your policy obligations.

2. Create an Emergency Plan

Emergency response planning can take a lot of the stress out of dealing with winter weather. A plan gives you time to think clearly, ready your organization and practice what actions you’ll need to take during an emergency. These are the key steps:

  • Create an emergency plan, considering facility and staff preparation and emergency team roles, location vulnerabilities, storm prep, evacuation and accessibility after the storm. Ensure proper documentation, employee training and routine drills.
  • Determine emergency supply needs, such as a shovels, icemelt, back-up generator, blankets and water. Maintain adequate stocks as needed.
  • Keep duplicate records of essential and sensitive documents, either physically or with a digital backup that is technically secured and insured with cyber liability insurance.
  • Be prepared to act when necessary, forwarding calls to a handy mobile phone, moving inventory and other property to a more secure location (policies through Lockton Affinity will cover up to $50,000 of emergency removal expense in the event of an impending storm), unplugging electronics, winterizing buildings and outdoor inventory, or other tasks as you are able.
  • Decide ahead of time on a communication plan, including notifying vendors, customers and employees of potential delays and setting a point of contact for emergency communications.

3. Gather Winter Weather Supplies

Gather the supplies and equipment you will need for winter weather now, before you need them. The right gear will not only help you weather the storm but allow you to minimize the damage to your inventory.

Inventory dealers may need these as well as additional supplies:

  • Shovels
  • Scrapers
  • Icemelt
  • Snow blowers
  • Snow plows
  • Tire chains
  • Space heaters
  • Tarps
  • Generators
  • Fuel
  • Blankets
  • Water

Supplies should be prepared ahead of winter and regularly inventoried. Some supplies are consumable and may need to be restocked during the season.

4. Form Beneficial Partnerships

The right partnerships can help you better manage winter weather inventory risks. Working with experts, such as your insurance representative, can help you plan for what-if scenarios to make sure you have the coverages you need. Strong partnerships with vendors and customers can also help you bounce back after damage from a storm.


For more information about preparing for winter weather and protecting your inventory, contact Lockton Affinity.