New Year, new restrictions for many areas of England. During the Christmas period, many parts of England were elevated to Tier 4 restrictions as the new, more infectious strain of COVID-19 spread around the country. Cases have been over 50,000 a day for the best part of a week at the time of writing, with those numbers forecasted to rise into next week.

For fenestration, what do the new rules mean for us and what might the next few weeks have in store?

Do showrooms have to close?

In short, yes. This is the guidance issued by the Government about working in Tier 4 areas, which mention specifically glazing showrooms:

To reduce social contact, the regulations require some businesses to close and impose restrictions on how some businesses provide goods and services. The full list of businesses required to close can be found in the guidance on closing certain businesses and venues in England, but includes:

  • non-essential retail, such as clothing and homeware stores, vehicle showrooms (other than for rental), betting shops, tailors, tobacco and vape shops, electronic goods and mobile phone shops, auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment) and market stalls selling non-essential goods – these venues can continue to be able to operate click-and-collect (where goods are pre-ordered and collected off the premises) and delivery services
  • hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs; with the exception of providing food and drink for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery
  • accommodation such as hotels, hostels, guest houses and campsites, except for specific circumstances, such as where these act as someone’s main residence, where the person cannot return home, for providing accommodation or support to the homeless, or where it is essential to stay there for work purposes
  • leisure and sports facilities such as leisure centres and indoor gyms, indoor swimming pools, indoor sports courts, indoor fitness and dance studios, indoor riding centres, and indoor climbing walls
  • entertainment venues such as theatres, concert halls, cinemas, museums and galleries, casinos, amusement arcades, bingo halls, bowling alleys, skating rinks, go-karting venues, indoor play and soft play centres and areas (including inflatable parks and trampolining centres), circuses, fairgrounds, funfairs, water parks and theme parks
  • indoor attractions at venues such as botanical gardens, heritage homes and landmarks must also close, though outdoor grounds of these premises can stay open
  • personal care facilities such as hair, beauty, tanning and nail salons. Tattoo parlours, spas, massage parlours, body and skin piercing services must also close. These services should not be provided in other people’s homes
  • community centres and halls must close except for a limited number of exempt activities, as set out below. Libraries can also remain open to provide access to IT and digital services – for example for people who do not have it at home – and for click-and-collect services

That is the general guidance. In the link above, this is the extract that matters to the fenestration sector:

Any business or venue that provides goods for sale or hire and is not listed above must close (other than where there is an explicit exemption for a specific purpose). They may continue offering delivery and click-and-collect services (where items are pre-ordered and collected without entering the premises). People can also leave home to collect or return orders from these businesses.

These closures include, but are not limited to, the following premises:

  • clothing and fashion stores and tailors
  • homeware stores
  • carpet stores
  • kitchen, bathroom, tile, and glazing showrooms
  • tobacco and vape shops
  • electronic goods and mobile phone shops
  • charity shops
  • photography studios and antique stores
  • markets (except livestock markets or stalls which fall under the list of essential businesses above, for example those selling food)
  • car and other vehicle showrooms and other premises, including outdoor areas, used for the sale or hire of caravans, boats or any vehicle which can be propelled by mechanical means. However taxi or vehicle hire businesses can continue. For example a customer could order a rental vehicle online and collect it in person.
  • car washes (except for automatic car washes)
  • auction houses (except for auctions of livestock or agricultural equipment)
  • betting shops

Door-to-door sales should not be taking place, and sales activities should be conducted remotely (such as by phone, online, or mail).

I have highlighted the points above that are pertinent to our sector. Showrooms in Tier 4 have to close. Door canvassers will not be allowed to operate in Tier 4 areas. With a huge swathe of England in Tier 4 this is going to have a major impact on our businesses at the start of the new year. Showrooms still bring in good levels of business and leads for installers, so will have a detrimental affect. I would advise installers to immediately focus your energy on upping your social media coverage, utilising video and images to help drive leads to your businesses. For the national installers, such as Safestyle and Anglian, the stopping of door-to-door sales is going to have an effect on their businesses in the first few months of this year. One national told me not too long ago that door canvassing brings around a third of their business in. So to not have that option to hand is going to have a material impact.

Installing, sales and more measures

Crucially, the Government has confirmed that installers can continue to install in people’s homes so long as they continue to implement COVID-secure measures such as social distancing, masks, hand washing etc. This is important, as many installers will begin 2021 with at least three months of work pre-scheduled. Any delay to that will cause chaos for those businesses, which is something we all want to avoid.

Sales call can also continue, but again the right COVID-secure measures should be implemented, with other forms of communicating with clients also being available to minimise physical interactions.

It is worth noting that in interviews on the Sunday morning politics shows, PM Boris Johnson has laid the groundwork for an increase in the tier system. He said that its likely that it will need to be strengthened in the coming weeks, with the rising possibility that schools may need to be closed. Other than schools, there’s a reducing menu of options of other sectors that could be closed or restricted. For the installer community in this sector any new restrictions on working in the home would be a big blow. However, we all need to be in a continued state of alert as the situation could change quickly as the virus continues to spread quickly around the country.

Hopefully, this brings some clarity to those with any questions.

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