The 12th of April is a date many English Kbb independents have long been waiting for. Now only two weeks away it signals the lifting of one of the more meaningful and prolonged lockdown restrictions with the ability of ‘non essential’ retail allowed to open once more.
With Kbb showrooms classed by the English Government as ‘non-essential’, they were forced to close in England on January 5, irrespective of how robust their Covid measures were.
One Kbb independent dismayed by the January 5th closure was Shane Swift of JWK, one of the UK’s leading Schuller Kitchens retailers. Shane said “January 5th was a huge disappointment for us as we had invested a lot in ensuring the safety of our staff and customers and we were ready for business after the Christmas break”
“In addition to offering Virtual Design Appointments we made the showrooms By Appointment Only and over and above mandatory PPE for staff we also made PPE available for customers who’d forgot their own. Plus we introduced enhanced cleaning and we ensured any surfaces touched by ourselves or customers during each appointment, were disinfected before the next appointment.”
On the lockdown Shane added; “Public safety is a must and we took it very seriously but in the end it felt like whilst we were only permitting one customer at a time in a 10,000 square foot showroom the big shed DIY stores couldnt offer anywhere near the same level of Covid safety, yet remained open. It seemded to be more about essential or non essential as oppossed to your Covid safety.
Mr Swift’s comments are not the exception but the norm amongst most Kbb independents as whilst many agree that essential retail should have remained open, they were dismayed by the blanket ban on all Kbb independent showrooms, even if they had robust protocols in place in the face of the big DIY sheds benefiting from an un-level playing field.
On face value, you cant disagree with Shane Swift. As part of a normal visit to the supermarket we have all walked within two to three feet past dozens and dozens of other people, some of whom would be witnessed touching items and putting them back, opening freezer doors etc. Add to this a less than strict mask enforcement policy frequently hitting the headlines and you have a genuine issue of a far from level playing field.
That this [far from level playing field] is in stark contrast to a policy of one customer plus a partner/spouse alone in a 10,000 square foot showroom, were every surface touched is cleaned before the next customer enters. That each visit is by appointment only and PPE is worn by all parties and it is understandable how those Kbb independent who made investments into Covid safety would feel aggrieved.
The common sense approach wasnt taken and thousands of Kbb independents whom invested heavily in PPE and enhanced Covid protocols were still forced to close in that blanket ban on Jan 5th.
The new roadmap out of lockdown and easing restrictions (set out on February 23rd) is the much needed moment to come up for air and a chance for Kbb independents to capture some of the pent up demand in the Kbb sector and realise this during the Spring.
From Monday 12th April, the UK will move to Step Two of Re-opening Britain Roadmap, which in addition to Kbb independents allowed to open, we will also see the reopening of other shops, gyms, health, hair & beauty and other personal care services, hotels for staycations, AirBnb type accommodation and holiday campsites plus beer gardens and outdoor hospitality of all kinds.
Whilst domestic refurbishment (for essential repairs) and construction installation work had always been allowed to continue during this most recent lockdown most Kbb independents remained closed so the 12th is hopefully that line in the sand, that we can collectively move forward from and never look back.
Sadly, April 12th is too late for the many hundreds of Kbb independents that went into administration over the last few months, but for those still in business, there could well be a vast and sustained surge in business during the Spring and Summer, now that the pent up demand can be fulfilled.