Published On: Fri, Sep 18th, 2020

Our heads are spinning..

Heads have been spinning across the industry over the last few weeks. The growing mountain of decisions and dilemmas components suppliers, fabricators and installers are facing is unprecedented. Business owners are juggling on a daily basis all the ingredients of their organisations as they grabble with the challenges of returning to opening the doors to business. The initial surprise of how rapid the return was has now led to the realisation that it brings with it its own set of challenges. Tradespeople across all sectors are reporting of product shortages, which is in turn leading to high levels of enquires for products from suppliers as tradespeople seek alternative suppliers. Many companies have rightfully acted on the side of caution as they have reduced staff numbers with the end of the furlough scheme in sight, however, I doubt many predicted the current mini boom in orders.  Forward thinking manufacturers had planned for this months ago by creating systems and production capacity that was achieved by maximising the full potential of a smaller workforce. In June a fabricator told me he was reducing his head count by 30% and laying down plans for a flexible second shift by splitting his workforce if demand returned and exceeded pre-lockdown levels. 

Although we do not have the benefit of having a crystal ball, we all have the ability to read trends and make reasonably logical predictions. As an industry we are very adept at reading market demand, an installer knows what products he can sell to differing types of homeowners – their livelihood relies on it and they havn’t got the time to waste on ‘duds’. Seldom does a product surprise an installer! While we have not really experienced a pandemic the size of Covid 19 in our lifetime, we know if people are looked in their homes for long periods and can’t go on holiday, their minds will focus on their homes and relationships. Aviva recently released an interesting bit of research that backed this up. ‘Home life in lockdown’ showed that 85% of residents have undertake home improvements during lockdown (while numbers of 25-34s wishing to end a relationship tripled!!). This propensity to improve their surroundings is a key driver in the upsurge in demand. As we all enjoy this ‘mini’ boom  and ‘make hay while the sun shines’ we must all still find time to concentrate on other areas of our businesses including innovation, investment and marketing. Whether we are going to witness a second wave and more severe lockdowns (trends and human behaviour can help guide you on this one) it is important to use sales revenue wisely as we will never see state support at the levels witnessed during lockdown. Wise words were shared with me by an installer recently who said: ‘I lived on nothing during lockdown. No holiday, no new clothes, basic food and my Amazon eBay spending was non-existent!! Now, I am so busy and booked up until the end of November. All my extra funds are however now being invested in the business and I am saving money as a buffer just in case we see a slowdown. I have invested in a new computer for invoicing and quoting and am paying for a new software package for this. This is freeing up more time for me being on site and carrying out installations.’ A strategy that has truly helped this individual’s head from stop spinning…..