Installations and government support top concerns for retailers as new restrictions bite

KBB retailers reveal their top fears to kbbreview as once again they are forced to close their showrooms under the latest lockdown restrictions.

We contacted the kbbreview100, our nationwide panel of expert KBB retailers, to see what their main concerns are about this new lockdown.

Some are calling for more financial help from Government and for them to allow KBB retailers to remain open on an appointment-only basis. Others, however, felt that closing their doors was the best decision while a vaccine is being rolled out.

Trevor Scott, owner of Rugby Fitted Kitchens, has taken the ‘tough’ decision to furlough some of his staff as the showroom is closed and only working remotely. The Rugby-based retailer also raised concerns about supply issues for both the KBB and general building trades.

He said: “Clearly a KBB showroom is no longer considered an essential business, which at least gives clarity to what had been a bit of a blurred situation, and has removed the moral question we had to ask ourselves back in March. Consumers are therefore clear in their own minds and are working with us virtually for the next month or more.”

Scott also believes the Government could do more in terms of offering financial support during lockdowns. He told kbbreview: “Financially, along with all other retail and hospitality businesses forced to close, the latest miserly grant Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced won’t even scratch the surface of the loss of profits we are all going to suffer. My personal view is that the first round of Bounce Back loans (the unsecured £50k ones) should be written off by the Government, allowing those who potentially need a further lifeline the freedom to apply for another similar loan without causing any more distress.”

Nick McNally of Kitchens by Nick McNally in Edinburgh is positive about sales post-lockdown, as he anticipates a boom after the initial drop-off. He also believes that the construction industry is now better prepared.

When questioned whether he thought the government guidance was clear, McNally said: “It is as clear as it can be. Getting the wording correct is tough, as everyone is looking for the loophole that allows them to continue trading.”

Paul O’Brien, director of Kitchens International in Scotland, believes that installations will become a challenge. He said: “The main challenge from last year’s lockdown was the subsequent backlog of installation works. This put tremendous pressure to complete projects in a condensed time frame.”

Ian Coghill, director of Riddle and Coghill in Edinburgh, is convinced that the Scottish Government doesn’t understand how important the KBB industry is by forcing them to close their showrooms.

He said: “I don’t think they have a clue about what we as an industry do and the value we bring to the country. We are in the construction sector and should be open for business. We have strict practices in place and can control the amount of people in our showroom at any time.

“I would say that independent KBB showrooms should be allowed to open as we don’t have masses of people coming for a wander or day out with the kids. I understand the sheds are in a slightly different position, as they are set up for massive footfall and rely upon that to generate the sales. Independents don’t, in general, and can control access very easily and then clean up after individual clients leave.”

Richie Hanley of Kitchen Creations by Ability in Chester does believe that independent retailers should be given special allowances, as they can control who comes through the door in a better manner than a supermarket.

He said: “I think it’s a little ridiculous – the fact that you can go to a supermarket with numerous people in an uncontrolled environment. In the showroom, we can control the number of people on an appointment-only basis. We can control the PPE measures with sanitiser stations and temperature checks and can sanitise the showroom between visits.”

Johnny Bacigalupo of Napier Bathrooms in Edinburgh is waiting for the vaccine to be fully rolled out and has rebooked bathroom installations for later in the year. He said: “It is now abundantly clear that in order for our society to win against Covid, we need to lockdown again until thee nation is vaccinated and protected.

“Having a new luxury bathroom is not an essential requirement and, as such, all non-essential business need to close to protect the vulnerable, help our community and assist the NHS. Stopping the spread of coronavirus starts with all of us. The First Minister of Scotland has commented to business today that it is not about finding loopholes to stay open, it is about helping all of society to win the race against this virus. I believe we all need to have a strong sense of civic responsibility and do our bit for the benefit of many.”

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