Firstly, I hope you, your family and your friends are all healthy and safe.
The virus is clearly with us now in all our communities and it doesn’t respect anyone. We all need to work hard to stay safe.
It’s a funny sort of “working hard” and I must admit that sometimes I find it difficult to get my head around what is going on. Sitting in the garden enjoying the sunshine or enjoying my home-cooked dinner, everything feels very normal. That leaves me asking myself why we can’t just get back to work and questioning whether we should all be sitting at home. Then I watch the Downing St daily briefing. Another 786 deaths reported yesterday. That’s 786 individuals gone and 786 grieving families who won’t even be allowed to attend the funeral of their loved ones. Then there is the 10 pm news. Last night they showed life in a hospital; even the operating theatres had been converted to hold intensive care beds, staff were dressed head to toe in PPE working their hearts out and a patient Michelle Wright (a 37 year old nurse) was struggling to breath but begging us through her oxygen mask to stay at home. Then I know it’s not normal. That’s why our factories are silent, and that’s why you have all made the same difficult decision to suspend your fitting operations. This is a REAL national emergency.
SO – well done for working so hard – it may not always seem this way, but we are all doing the right thing.
We are not alone in that. Pretty much all of our industry has taken the same decision. The CBI reported this morning that they estimate 30% of UK private sector employees to be on Furlough and that doesn’t include the millions of self-employed people not working. We are not alone.
It’s really tough for us all from a business perspective so can I also thank you for all for paying us. That really helps us carry our 280 employees through this crisis. When we do return to work, we will have all of the skills and capacity available to get going quickly.
I hope you have taken full advantage of the various Government-led schemes, most of you will have read the emails we’ve been sending, and I’ve spoken to many of you personally as have Rob and Paul. The Government has really stepped up and I’m confident that all of our customers can trade through this crisis. If you do need to talk about the schemes then feel free to call me at any time (my mobile is at the bottom of this update).
So, the big questions that we all keep asking. When will we all get back to work and when will we restart our Factory and Trade Counter operations?
I wish I had a quick and simple answer for that question, but it can only be when the Government tells us that they are lifting the lockdown restrictions and when it is safe for us all do to do so. That’s safe for our employees and safe for all of our customers. As you know the lockdown was initially for 3 weeks and due to end therefore on Monday 13th April. Yesterday’s (7th April) Downing St briefing made it clear that it won’t be next week. Personally, I think we should plan for at least another 4 weeks of this. As most of you know, I continue to speak to our supply chain partners on a daily basis. Many of them have operations in Europe and the collective wisdom and insight are that we will be locked down and not able to trade until at least the end of May. Taylor Wimpey have also announced that their sites won’t re-open until 1st June at the earliest. Please don’t shoot the messenger. I hope its sooner rather than later, however, plan for the worst and hope for the best! When it is time to return we will be ready and raring to go.
I’m seeing numerous communications from our competitors. Some are making wild and, in my view, irresponsible claims. For once, social media is exerting positive pressure and those who were slow to respond to the Prime Ministers call on the 23rd of March. Those of our competitors who kept going were soon forced to follow our lead and that of the systems companies. I’ve also heard that many of your competitors have been forced to close by social media and Trading Standards. Some have even been fined for not following Government guidelines. Our industry has come a long way in the last 20 years and we need to avoid going back to the bad old reputation. Be assured you are the good guys and the public will remember those who did the right thing.
There is no doubt that the economy will be challenged after this crisis, but history has told us that when people are down then the desire for home improvement goes up. After all, we have all spent the last three weeks looking out of those old windows!!! So don’t be gloomy about the impact on our industry once we are back up and running properly.
This crisis is also accelerating some of the changes that were happening already. Look at the High St. The retailers who didn’t move with the times were limping on and they are now falling over. In our industry 30% of the market is still owned by just 15 ‘direct sell’ companies. You know who they are! These companies have always sold ‘me too’ products at high prices through a ‘double glazing salesman process’. This is a 2-hour sales pitch in front of Mr and Mrs 70-year-old. That was already becoming a thing of the past and who thinks that’s going to be allowed/permitted/tolerated after this crisis? Not me. What I do know is that you, our partners, have great business models which will be resilient post this crisis. So, if the market is down, I expect those out of date models to taking the brunt of the fall. Not you.
Let’s use this time we’ve got effectively. This opportunity for reflection and preparation has never been available in the past and I really hope it will never be available again. Let’s develop your marketing assets, let us help you sell remotely and online. Let us train you on Easy Connect. Let us help you pull together a plan for the new fitting approach which will deal with people’s health concerns once the lockdown is lifted.
I am heartened by the number of customers who are telling me that they are still signing up new orders. You can’t keep a good window person down! It can be done! Successes come from being adaptable not from constantly trying to do the same thing when the world has moved on. Let’s leave that approach to the nationals.
Stay safe and let’s work our socks off so that we make the comeback stronger than the setback.
Onwards & Upwards. Roy and the team