Early on Monday a follower of DGB messaged me on Twitter with the first bit of anecdotal evidence that the coronavirus is starting to have an impact on day-to-day business.

This is what he said in a series of messages to me:

I’m in domestic architecture and it’s dropped very quiet this last 10 days. I speak with 5 different architects and that all have had no new domestic enquiries in that time…

…it should be the peak for new work and enquiries atm…

…I think the realisation the virus will affect folks work, before it affects them in reality is a good, valid point.

Ian Henderson, Extension Design Plans

I have to say that this is something we have to remember. Whilst we personally may not feel the physical effects of the illness, its unavoidable that our businesses will feel the effects far quicker than we will.

Whilst domestic architecture isn’t quite fenestration, the two industries are linked, and UK fenestration still gets a lot of business from domestic architecture. If this anecdotal evidence is representative of the wider domestic architecture market, then UK fenestration should expect to see the ripple effects from this part of construction.

Time to be realistic

The news and media is rammed full of everything COVID-19. The media can be accused of hyping stories up. It was often suggested with Brexit, and to some extent I would agree. There would be times where Brexit activity in Parliament and Government would drop off between 2017 and 2019, and yet some channels would go above and beyond to keep it front and centre. This however is a different thing altogether.

A virus, one which is spreading rapidly around the globe, one which we still know very little about, presents us with a serious health emergency. The media is the only place the public can get the significant news and announcements. But as each day and week develops, this isn’t just a health crisis any more, but rapidly turning into an economic one. I spoke with industry friends and colleagues about this long before the point where we’re at now, and unfortunately, we’re seeing it play out right in front of us.

So its time to be realistic. Each day where a country around the world implements measures to combat the spread, its going to hurt the economy. Each time a consumer decides to stay indoors and not go out to that bar or cinema or restaurant, its going to hurt the economy. Each time a region, or entire country such as Italy goes into lockdown, its going to hurt the economy. Whether you like it or not, these things are happening, we cannot control it, so we have to adapt to it.

A recession around the world is inevitable, but we have been here before, during the financial crisis and Great Recession. We adapted then and we can adapt now. Granted, this is a very different cause of recession. Although the world of finance is already hinting that there is a risk that banks exposed to the most vulnerable sectors could find themselves in a vulnerable position again.

What the fenestration industry needs to be doing in the UK right now is looking at ways to conduct business remotely or in other ways so that when further measures are put in place, which they will, business activity can continue. Unlike 12 years ago, people could still go to their place of work. This time round we’re going to be told to work from home if we can. Thats a bit hard if you’re a fabricator making windows and doors, you cannot do that sat on your sofa. Hopefully the government will explain to factories how they can continue to produce goods even during potential lockdown phases.

Much of what else our industry does however can be conducted over the phone, email and even social media. Contracts can still be signed, money can still be paid, photos sent, quotations emailed. A lot of business activity can be done remotely, which is a sign of just how much technology has already changed our industry. Showrooms may need to close, or at least ban visitors for a week or two, but a well-designed website with lots of inspiration should do the job for now.

On a personal note, we’re being realistic at our own installations business. I have to admit that lead levels and indeed sales are very healthy indeed. There has been no drop-off in activity so far, and the phones are busy with new leads every day. That being said, we are expecting a slow down to hit in a few weeks time, once the ripples of the virus in other parts of the country and economy start to flow through. So we’re just trying to make the most of it while things are good right now.

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