Do we or don’t we? That is the question

Wayne Dance, MD of InHouse, talks about the positive spending in the home improvements industry since lockdown one and lockdown number two.

 

In this forever changing, stranger world, for the first time in my life the future looks foggy. Perhaps it’s only been through World Wars that there’s been such a level of pandemonium and uncertainty.

After three years of Brexit discussions we are still no further forward as to what we will leave with and we are definitely not certain about what it means for us all. Now we have a world pandemic to deal with. After the initial shock of lockdown number one in March, our lives were changed. Yet who would have thought we might be facing Christmas with yet lockdown number two.

There are many opinions about what this is really all about. It’s hard to understand the rationale behind some of the decisions, leading us to question not just the figures and the risks but also the motives of our political leaders. Questions that are now coming thick and fast as we are in the second phase.

 

What we need to adapt to?

National business closures, national school closures, difficulty in obtaining necessary treatments for other illnesses such as cancer. Not being able to spend time with our families. On a less serious scale, but certainly still serious enough, no holidays for a year. Not being able to socialise and dine out. Unable to attend theatres and sporting events. Having said all this, our nation has coped admirably and the beautiful summer we had helped soften the blow to a degree.

Without a doubt, this virus has increased the damage and risk to high-street businesses and many other businesses have suffered. Some have thrived though. Certainly, the big boys such as Amazon, Google, Facebook, Apple and technology industries have benefited, and their share values have risen sharply. This has had a benefit. People who didn’t know how to order online or use digital media to communicate with each other have now become very adept, accelerating the pace of change towards digital.

The surge in businesses refusing to take cash and insisting upon payment by card is also pushing us towards a new way of living that will make everything easier to track and trace and be accountable for. We will at some point be a cashless society.

This will certainly help tighten up on fraud, VAT and tax evasion, which can only be considered as a good thing to the community. But it will also mean the technology industry will know everything about our every move and will be able to selectively target us and seduce us as buyers. It’s already happening with Siri and Alexa, knowing our conversations and our location. How many times do you pass a shop or restaurant and a message pops up inviting you in or advertising something you’ve just been talking about?

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Well… welcome to the new normal. Over the past 10 years, technology has outrun the previous 50 years. We can either accept and embrace technology and use it for our own personal advantages or try fight it and be forever in a losing battle.

Certainly, the first enforced lockdown impacted on the home improvement industry. But we recovered quickly as people were forced to spend time in their homes and gardens and had time and the inclination to improve their own environment. Add to this the fact that there were no holidays and less spending on socialising, and many people managed to accrue additional funds.

This has led to very positive spend on home improvements. Some of our retailers are reporting orders well into next year already. Of course, we have to be careful not to get too carried away as some of this is delayed spend, and the danger is that we could experience a lull once the dust settles. Add to this our uncertainty about the future and it still pays to remain vigilant and maintain a commonsense approach to our businesses.

There’s a lot of cards already on our table, so what about else can we expect from lockdown number two? Well, we can certainly use the experience of lockdown number one to avoid repeating the same mistakes, and hopefully, to learn from the positive.

As part of the construction industry and thanks to the publicity created by Wren in challenging the Government, this lockdown means we don’t have to shut our doors. As long as we practise safe sanitisation and social distancing, we are much safer environments than supermarkets, sheds or DIY chains. Simply because we don’t have the volume of people walking through our door at any one time.

A busy week for an average KBB retailer is 10 to 15 people per week coming through the doors of showrooms that are open six days a week. By using proper PPE equipment and keeping safe distancing, presentations can be made without risk. Equally, many retailers now have an appointment booking process and many are equipped for virtual walkthroughs and presentations. From our conversations with many of our 500 retailers nationwide, the majority are staying open and either restricting numbers or open purely by appointment. I believe this is the right thing to do.

Who knows where and when this will end? All that we do know is that we need to continue to live life to the best levels we can, and adapt to whatever is thrown at us along the way.

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