MD at BC Designs Darren Allison has never been more certain that manufacturers and retailers have to work in tandem to weather the COVID-19 storm
Just when we thought we were starting to see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel, the new local lockdowns have the potential to inflict further economic damage on a national and sector level. Already, both manufacturers and retailers are having to adapt their ways of working to survive, but further collaboration is needed if the sector is to endure during and after this period.
BC Designs is a major supplier and manufacturer to bathroom retailers in the UK and further afield, and as such, has a responsibility to help support its customers and the sector as a whole. When COVID-19 first hit, we took the decision to implement a price freeze across our full product portfolio that would last until at least Autumn, however, in light of the current, ongoing situation, BC Designs has decided to extend this into 2021. The result has been to give retailers a small peace of mind by ensuring they are able to maintain their margins, as well as asking prospective customers to pay more at a time they are highly conscious of their outgoings.
One area we have seen a huge shift in how our sector operates is how timelines for projects have sped up. Retailers are now having to work on much shorter lead times, which is creating issues across the supply chain. Nevertheless, manufacturers can play their part by implementing any changes that can increase their output to meet demand. Along with this, a fully staffed sales and support team has to be operational. I cannot express the amount of frustrations I have heard from suppliers who cannot get hold of the right person – if any person at all – and can often be put through to someone who cannot answer their questions. This can both damage relationships between the manufacturer and supplier, as well as causing unnecessary delays to consumers placing orders.
Retailers cannot thrive if they don’t have access to stock or are severely limited as to what is available. If manufacturers have the capability, increased stock levels will be hugely beneficial to retailers. In early February, BC Designs decided to increase its stock levels by 50% across the whole product portfolio, and we have done our best to maintain these new levels. This meant service could continue – albeit on limited terms – during lockdown for construction projects. Since retailers started opening on the 1st June, having a considerable stockpile has meant BC Designs has been able to fulfil orders quickly and efficiently, with further plans in place to reduce lead times in light of the feedback we are receiving from retailers. In the grand scheme of things, it is only a small part of the puzzle, but has made a considerable difference to the way retailers can operate.
Finally, having already spent time in retailers’ stores, I can confirm that how you manage the workings of your store, and the level of preparation in safeguarding against Covid-19, is vital to customers' perceptions of you and your professionalism. Following guidelines, putting proper measures in place and ensuring the welfare of both staff and customers, instantly gives the impression of a highly competent company. I promise you I have seen it for myself.