‘Crazy’: Welsh retailers react to new lockdown

Welsh KBB retailers have reacted to the new circuit-break lockdown, with one describing it as “crazy”, while another believes it won’t negatively affect business.

Yesterday’s announcement included the news that “non-essential” shops would have to close and installation work could only be carried out if it was “urgent”. Exactly which categories of shops would have to close is still to be clarified by the Welsh Government.

One KBB studio owner in south Wales  spoke exclusively to kbbreview about how he thought his business would be affected if KBB studios had to close.

He said: “It is all hugely out of proportion. It is getting stupid. It will cause more and bigger problems down the line. My patience is all but exhausted.”

He spelt out what he saw as the problems with a ban on KBB studios opening: “The supply chain is still struggling to get back on track. Appliances are a nightmare to get hold of. The majority of furniture manufacturers are broadly back on track, sinks and taps are moderately OK, but the supply chain has had a hit that will probably take until the beginning of the New Year to go away.

“Looking at the nature of what we do, this idea of just shutting down for two weeks and then turning everything back on is crazy. It doesn’t work that way. All our projects tend to have a three- to four-week turnaround, two to three for bathrooms. When you hit that pause button, we have to then work back from Christmas. Everything has to be complete for people in good time for Christmas. So that two weeks effectively loses all those projects that would run within a month.

“The other challenge is in relation to the fitters. We use a high proportion of subcontractors and that time just completely evaporates. So not only will we lose projects we would have planned to have this side of Christmas, but it puts pressure on fitters and that time will be difficult to gain back. Once the time is gone, the time is gone. They will be trying to juggle who shouts loudest.”

The Tap End in Pontyclun has been so busy with orders since the original national lockdown and told kbbreview it is fully booked up until spring. The team has even expanded to include a new full-time member and there will soon be another designer required as workload has increased.

Justine Bullock, co-creator of The Tap End, will be closing its showroom during this time, but will continue taking enquiries over the phone or via Zoom. Bullock said: “It won’t negatively affect the business as such, it is a short lockdown period of two weeks. It’s more of an inconvenience than a huge detriment to immediate business. We are in the middle of a small showroom renovation, so that will be on the back burner now, but that’s the only disruption we foresee at present.”

Current projects Bullock believes to be covered by the Welsh Government’s stipulation of “urgent” installation work would be current clients who have had their bathrooms fully ripped out and have no facilities.

Bullock said: “Lots of our current projects are covered by urgent works. For example, we have clients who have ripped out their bathrooms already and as a result they have no facilities, so those projects will continue where possible. It is what it is and our priority is staying in touch with clients, and reassuring them that we are stable and that contactable, even though the showroom is closed.

“As a client, I would want to know that above all else my investment and spend was secure, even if my project was put on hold, so that’s what we will focus on doing. We will touch base with everyone individually, much like we did during the first lockdown.”

Overall Bullock and The Tap End have a positive view on this situation. Bullock said: “We foster a very positive outlook on the current situation. We try to look at things in bite-size chunks and take it slow, no knee-jerk reactions. No major changes to the way in which we operate, other than the obvious and ultimately, we want our clients, recommended fitters and staff to know they are safe and secure at this time so they can continue to make our brand what it is.”

During the first nationwide lockdown, Wren reopened its stores in May after getting full clearance from Trading Standards on the basis that it fell into the category of ‘homeware, building suppliers and hardware stores’ in the list of businesses exempt from closure in the official Coronavirus Regulations.

The KBSA has set up a legal helpline to support its Welsh members and has contacted the Welsh Government for clarification on how the lockdown will affect KBB retailers. Said national chair Richard Hibbert yesterday: “Each sector is different and we need full guidance, as we did before.”

KBSA national chair Richard Hibbert said: “We acted quickly earlier this year, liaising with Government and trading standards to clarify the position for our members and the definition of ‘non- essential’ shops”. 

“It is even more important that we have clarity this time, as any closures may be temporary. The complications of a stop-start situation, especially during this busy period, when projects are in hand for a Christmas completion, are complex. Whilet we seek clarification, our members have access to our dedicated legal and HR support lines that can help deal with the implications, and provide up to date information on the latest business support packages.”

“With details emerging every day, we are in constant contact with our members, not just by electronic means but with face to face briefings via Zoom. There is no doubt that there are many changes coming over the next few weeks. We remain committed to supporting members as they negotiate their way through this challenging period.”

Home > News > ‘Crazy’: Welsh retailers react to new lockdown