The one thing I can promise you in these uncertain times is an honest view and opinion. There’s going to be a lot to talk about in the coming weeks and months, so you can expect DGB to be busy as well. I will also give you frank opinion on any subject, whether you agree with it or not.
I have been seeing a lot of admirable posts on social media the past week. Many from our own sector saying that they’re open and its business as usual. A reaction you would expect as all companies seek to keep the wheels turning. Its about finding hope, as we all need right now. But given the gravity of what is happening, I think its just as important to be blunt about the situation: this is NOT business as usual.
Over the weekend I have been active on social media with installers, trying to build up a picture of the state of things. It was sad to see so many, both in public and in private, tell me that new leads have ground to a halt, orders were being cancelled, deposits being repaid and existing contracts being held up by people not wanting them in their homes. Some have also told me that some of their staff had gone into isolation. As awful as that is to read, I see that as the realistic picture on the ground. One I can vouch for as we’re in the same position. New leads at our place have halted, we have now had two customers email to say that they would like to go ahead but because of COVID-19 they are putting their plans on hold until given the all-clear. This is the real picture on the ground. As a warning to fabricators, I’d say you have about a couple of weeks before you see the levels of the drop off we are. A lot of you are saying you’re still getting orders flying in, and that’s great. But the drop is coming, and it would be prudent to plan now.
I was shown some commentary from an industry voice made over the weekend, which in short astounded me. To anyone that is reading any kind of report or guidance for our market right now, throw it in the bin or close the window on your screen. They’re worthless. In fact any kind of reporting or guidance for the rest of 2020 is pointless. With a global crisis that evolves almost on an hourly basis, and social distancing measures set to last a year, its impossible to put together any kind of reporting.
This is NOT going to be a short term story. The 12 weeks that have been quoted by Boris Johnson are 12 weeks in which to attempt to slow the curve of the cases spike to help the NHS cope. This is not 12 weeks to stamp the virus out. The measures that are being put in place are here to stay for a long while. The language I saw from this person was though it was the recession of 08/09, playing the severity of the situation down quite dangerously in my opinion. So, for that person, and others who are refusing to see the situation that lies in front of them, let me show you:
- all pubs are now closed until further notice – not seen since the English Civil War
- all bars, restaurants, clubs, theatres, leisure centres and gyms closed until further notice
- schools across the UK closed for the foreseeable future
- airlines have shuttered at least three quarters of their capacity
- entire sporting calendar on hold around the world
- car manufacturing plants in the UK and Europe are being closed until further notice
Now take a look at this list of retail chains that have closed their doors:
- John Lewis
- Arcadia Group (Topshop, Topman, Dorothy Perkins, Burton, Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Evans)
- New Look
- River Island
- H&M Group (Weekday, Arket, Monki, Cos, H&M Home, & Other Stories, H&M)
- Inditex (Zara, Bershka, Stradivarius, Pull & Bear, Massimo Dutti, Zara Home)
- TK Maxx
- Liberty London
- Harvey Nichols
- The Body Shop
- Michael Kors
- Oasis and Warehouse
- The British Heart Foundation
- Abercrombie & Fitch
- Calvin Klein
- Sweaty Betty
Take a look at the stock markets. Every single market in the world has been annihilated for weeks on end, losing trillions in value and ruining pensions for millions around the world. Oil has fallen through the floor, and there is a currency crisis with Sterling that would normally get plenty of airtime in normal times.
Major companies have pulled guidance for 2020 as they haven’t a clue what is going to happen next week never mind by the end of the year. And now there are some disastrous predictions about how bad the global recession is going to be, with depression-like forecasts from banks in the US predicting anywhere from -5% to a whopping -30% drop in GDP for America alone.
In short, entire economies are being shut down. Not just slowed down or suppressed, but shut down completely. There is nothing short term about this. Even if the infection has scaled back by the end of the year. The economic damage this is going to have caused is going to make the Great Recession of 2008/9 look mild at worst and its going to take a very, very long time to get to some sort of recovery. This isn’t going to be a v-shaped recovery. So when people are going to speak on matters like this, its important that the truth and facts are stated, if only to paint an accurate picture. I appreciate some will say I’m negative, but the above are the facts, and that’s not up to me.
If you have read the above and still think its being blown out of proportion, then you’re in denial.
More restrictions coming
Over the weekend we have seen far too many people flout the advice given by the PM during the last week. People thinking it was OK to cram beaches, parks and public spaces in their thousands. Walk in your local area, stay close to home, stay 2m apart from other people. This is not hard to follow, yet far too many selfish people are choosing to ignore solid advice. So, if we’re not following that advice, we’ll be made to follow that advice.
Its highly like that this week, perhaps even tomorrow (Monday) evening, that we’re going to go into a fuller lockdown. As seen in other European countries. It will be our own fault. It will mean non-essential businesses must close and staff work from home. Whether you like it or not, window and door companies will not be classed as essential businesses. There will be more movement restrictions. The elderly and vulnerable are now already being asked to shelter in place at home for 12 weeks, which is a huge act in itself and will put a lot of strain on many of us. If you want to look at what essential businesses are during a lockdown, check out @nycgov.
Even with the measures put in place by the Chancellor, many of our companies are going to be put under too much strain to cope. In an article I will expand further on there, there is more to be done to help the self-employed. Many of our installers have self-employed fitters and sales staff. £94 per week isn’t going to be much help. Jobs are still going to be lost. So whilst we’re going to see tighter restrictions put in place, at the same time I’m hoping that the Chancellor will step up again and help another massive part of our industry.
Until specifically told to do so, there will be plenty of showrooms opening their doors Monday morning. Over the weekend, you could feel public opinion turn as outrage grew over those who chose to ignore advice and gather in large crowds in public spaces and the retail world shut up shop. Business owners in UK fenestration will be facing a tough decision this week. Do they stay open as best they can to try and keep money coming in? Do they close and send their staff away and ask them to work from home as best they can, in safety? Its hard, and no answer is a good answer.
Our businesses also have to face a couple of realities. More and more of our staff are going to be self-isolating for weeks and weeks at a time. If the prediction of 60% of the population is to be infected is true, this is going to be a lot of people off work. This is going to cause us huge supply chain problems. Second, staff might soon start to feel reluctant to go to work if they feel they are being forced to or are fearful for their jobs even though they’re worried about the virus.
Did any of you watch the two Sky News reports from northern Italy over the weekend? They were harrowing. Like something out of a disaster film. We remain on the same track as Italy, if not slightly worse. We all have some decisions to make in the next day or so which could make all the difference or not. I know what I would do.
Whilst this is an entirely unprecedented period of history, there are some small nuggets of promise for our industry. An article coming shortly is going to explain what opportunities there are for installers, even if you have to work from home.
To get weekly updates from DGB sent to your inbox, enter your email address in the space below to subscribe:
By subscribing you agree to DGB sending you weekly email updates with all published content on this website, as well as any major updates to the services being run on DGB. Your data is never passed on to third parties or used by external advertising companies. Your data is protected and stored on secure servers run by Fivenines UK Ltd.