At long last, after nearly four full months unable to work, fenestration installers in Scotland have gone back to work on Monday as lockdown restrictions have been eased further. It follows England and Wales that were able to reopen showrooms at the start of the month.
It marks another moment of progress in Scotland on the path to more freedoms. It also marks a significant moment in UK fenestration.
Fenestration companies in Scotland will have been cheering today as they were finally able to resume work in people’s homes. For much of this lockdown, Scotland has taken one of the strictest approaches when it came to working in homes, effectively banning it unless it was an emergency. It meant casual residential replacement work was put on hold until restrictions changed otherwise.
I remember during the height of the second wave in January and February the anger from the installer community in England and other places that felt left behind as they saw Scotland take a different approach. The impression was that Scotland gave more care to their tradespeople than other parts of the UK. There was a hint at one point that England might have fallen in line with Scotland, but the Government held out long enough for the heat to die down and the guidance never changed.
As it is, we have made it to the end of April and now Scotland joins the rest of the UK in making big moves to unlock the economy, with installers now allowed to go back into people’s homes to carry out replacement work.
So here’s what I’m thinking. Our industry has been booming for months. The supply chain is creaking at best, crumbling in some places. Fabricator lead times are extending all the time. We’re already counting down the weeks before installers start to say they are full for the year. All that business being done, and it has been done whilst Scotland has been offline. Now we’re back north of the border, there is a whole load of unlocked potential now ready and waiting to flow again now the brakes are off.
Installers will have been sat on orders. Homeowners will have been waiting patiently until today to start their home improvement journey. We know in the rest of the UK how quickly demand picks up once lockdown measures ease, and I see no reason to think Scotland will be any different. There will be lots of demand that has built during the lockdown period. Lots of property owners looking at their homes, exploring what needs upgrading and replacing.
The question is, now there is another country of the UK able to operate, can the supply chain cope with all that new business that is going to flow from Scotland? Remember that a lot of fabricators in England have customers in Scotland. And we all know how much pressure fabricators have been under these last few months. Are Scottish installers going to find problems with deliveries? Are they too going to have to extend lead times to those seen in England? It’s a nice problem to have, of course, all those weeks of work and with plenty more to come. But expectation management and good communication are going to be key for Scotland in these first early weeks. Hopefully, lessons have been learned and Scottish companies will already be on the front foot telling the people that matter what the situation is.
For now, we are glad to welcome back Scotland’s installers to the fold. Strap yourselves in, because if it’s anything like the rest of the UK you’re in for a hell of a ride!
Find out the full lockdown easing measures in Scotland here: https://www.gov.scot/coronavirus-covid-19/
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