Top retailers brace themselves for coronavirus disruption

Leading KBB retailers have outlined their immediate reaction to the uncertainty of the coronavirus situation, warning that while there has been minimal impact so far, a severe few months is imminent.

Jim Geddes, managing director of Kitchens by JS Geddes said this was “certainly the most challenging issue in 35 years of business”.

“We have had a couple of clients postponing meetings over the weekend,” he said. “But on the positive we sold three good projects over the weekend. Footfall is down but there are still clients wanting kitchens – we just need to ensure that it’s us they come to.”

Geddes, who was named Kitchen Retailer of the Year at the kbbreview Retail & Design Awards earlier this month, said that at this stage keeping staff safe was the main priority and updating clients on the current status of the business.

“As a business, we believe communication is vital to ensure that orders or potential orders won’t be lost,” he said.

Like many retailers, Kitchens by JS Geddes has asked that no supplier sales reps or area managers visit the business in person.

“We need to keep going and be as positive as possible over the coming weeks – it will return to normal in time and we need to be strong to survive,” Geddes said.

Wayne Lyons, managing director of Soaks Bathrooms in Belfast, said that he had already cancelled the imminent purchase of a new 10,000sqft warehouse.

“We were due to complete on March 18, but fortunately my solicitor had not sent the contract to the vendors,” he said. “We have now decided not to proceed. A £500,000 investment in a warehouse is not a wise move at present and we’ll rent additional space for the short term.”

Lyons went on to warn of dark times ahead for unprepared retailers

“I believe there are very difficult times ahead for all types of businesses, apart from those that supply cleaning goods,” he said. “I think that any business without a good financial standing is going to be in difficulty over the coming months with a countrywide business shutdown imminent

“At Soaks our prime objective is to keep our 15 staff healthy, we are a family and this takes precedence over everything else. We must do all we can to make sure we at Soaks create a safe environment for our customers. There are very difficult times ahead for our industry and only the strong viable businesses will survive, it’s time to knuckle down.”

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