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September 2020 ertonline.co.uk


Lyn Knight, Company Director at Abbey Appliances


April 2020 marked 25 years in business at Abbey Appliances, but unfortunately plans for celebration were put on hold. Ms Knight


battled on through the lockdown with a skeleton crew helping her closest customers. She says she felt a service to her community and that she couldn’t let people down, and her customers were very appreciative of the support. Business was good for the retailer during the


pandemic, as orders were taken over the phone for hundreds of appliances. Ms Knight’s shop floor was left almost completely empty. When the UK first went into lockdown, she


reports: “I was grief-stricken. I was panicking. I thought 25 years of business would go down the


pan. It was a difficult time. If you’d have asked me how I was in April there would have been tears, anxiety and confusion. “But things picked up and after that we were


so busy. The phone did not stop ringing! I was selling off stock – customers didn’t care what model it was, they just bought it. “I think it’s a bit of a knock-on effect with


people panic buying during the worst of the pandemic as they’ve got spare money from being stuck at home. But this will not last. It’s a false economy and things will die down. November could be a sticky month.” When Abbey Appliances reopened, Ms Knight


kept the door locked and installed a doorbell to control customers coming in. Her store is not


Stuart Cook, CEO of CIH (Euronics)


“In my 25 years at CIH I never, ever thought I was going to go through anything like this,” says Mr Cook. “There is no training course or qualification for


dealing with this. But we should have seen it coming.” He reports that March was “incredibly


strong” for the buying group; business was mainly driven by refrigeration as consumers’ paranoia was setting in. Conversely, April and May were challenging months, he says, as retail shops were forced to close. “It was chaos in the early days,” Mr Cook goes on. “Everybody was running scared and


there was a total lack of information – retailers were left not knowing what to do. Our whole membership has got a closed Facebook group so they all started talking with each other, sharing advice and stories. I started sending out weekly updates from the business to keep everyone in the loop. “During lockdown 80 per cent of the members


stayed open in some shape or form and looked after their local communities via phone or online. Those with a good online offering and good installation service did very well all the way through – no two ways about it. “In June and July we’ve been absolutely booming. Our busiest time in history.”


A lot of Euronics retailers installed a doorbell


– in some cases a Ring doorbell – in order to communicate with customers outside and ensure people were entering stores safely. Mr Cook also sourced huge amounts of PPE and other safety equipment as part of a reopening starter kit for retailers, including hand sanitiser stations, visors, perspex screens, coloured tape, floor markers and window posters. “Sometimes you just have to be there for


people,” adds Mr Cook. “I am very proud of what the whole team has achieved; we worked really hard to make sure our members didn’t worry or have concerns about anything. And the thanks we’ve had has been incredible!”


currently open at the weekends and she explains that shopping in her town has changed “drastically” and she is unsure whether opening hours will return to “normal”. During lockdown, Ms Knight made good use


of her local town Facebook group to connect with customers and share information. She is now also starting to quote for kitchen installations again. The retailer has not installed any this year as customers cancelled when the pandemic hit, but Ms Knight is confident sales will pick up. She adds: “I believe local businesses will do


better in the future. My business is fully flexible. I don’t fear the future, but I realise that this high we’re on at the moment will dip.”


27


Matthew Todd, Partner at Herbert Todd and Son


Mr Todd had already made the decision to close his three stores before the Government rules came into place. His business


took about half its normal turnover during the first part of lockdown, he reports, made up from increased online sales and the vast majority of business was over the phone. “We do operate online, but it’s small fry,” Mr


Todd explains. “We used the site and our social accounts to put out messages letting customers know what we’re up to and how to get in touch.” When the retailer reopened his doors, there


was a good flow of people he says. “We had a very busy first couple of days. In fact, I think we had our busiest day ever in terms of turnover.


The main problem was, and still is, getting stock as most manufacturers had shortages. So we had a few gaps to fill.”


Mr Todd adds that he had issued a few


refunds in recent weeks where customers have bought something online but the stock was not available. “It’s a bit of a pain,” he says. The business has also installed three new


kitchens since lockdown ended and there is more work in the pipeline. Mr Todd continues: “I think there’s a definite


euphoria at the moment where people are getting out and enjoying themselves and spending money all over the place. However, as the furlough scheme unwinds, there may be a lot of casualties and I suppose we are technically heading for a recession. So although things are good at the moment, I hope it doesn’t all come crashing down.”


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