COVID-19: Battling on

This year has undoubtedly been the toughest ever for independent electrical retailers, with many saying that the industry will never be the same again. When non-essential stores were forced to close due to growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic, no one knew how long it would be for and what the outcome would be. So what was it like for those on the front line? ERT finds out.

There are two sides to the Stellisons business. The commercial side has been looking after care homes and similar places

with the service and repair team adhering to the guidelines and wearing PPE. However, when the Stellisons retail stores were forced to close, Mr Scogings says he was disappointed shops like his were not seen as essential.

Steve Scogings, MD of Stellisons and Chairman of CIH (Euronics) “A care home can’t do without its laundry or

its refrigeration so these are essential parts of their operation and, in turn, it was important we remained open to look after them,” he says. “But we were ignored. In some other European countries electrical retailers were allowed to remain open as essential services for consumers.” Mr Scogings wrote to the Business Secretary on

behalf of his CIH members, too, although he did not get a response. He also urged his members to write to their local MPs. He adds: “I think the furlough scheme has

been fantastic and the Government has done a good job on the business side. The furlough scheme has undoubtedly saved our industry, if you think about the staff across the whole independent sector. “I think the big national chains are suffering

and the independents are actually having a revival; I’m seeing it through CIH members, they

are having record months right now. We were up 60 per cent in July – that’s not online, that’s in stores. Stellisons hardly has any online presence and my shops are flying!” Mr Scogings closed all nine of his stores and

furloughed 85 per cent of is staff during lockdown, leaving just one delivery crew dealing with the essential orders. “Business was good,” he says. “My warehouse

is virtually empty now and it’s never been like that. This pandemic has given us a point of reset so we can plan more for what today’s business is like rather than what it was before. “We reopened just seven of our stores and we

couldn’t stop people from flooding in. Business in the first week was better than any January sale I’ve ever had. Things are only just calming down a little bit now.” Mr Scogings admits that retail trends have

changed and he does not plan to open his stores on Sundays for the foreseeable future.

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