Ready to bounce back?
“Brexit has dominated the headlines for the past few years and understandably taken its toll on the construction industry. It painted a picture of an uncertain future and nobody likes that. Then, just as things were starting to look a little more rosy, the prospects for our industry plunged yet again, this time at the hands of a global pandemic.
“Up until the start of this year nobody had heard of Covid-19, yet it now governs our every movement – or lack of. So, while in lockdown, I’ve sought the opinions of those I do business with - asking what they make of the situation in which we find ourselves and what they think our world of work will look like when we return to it in full.
“Working in the housebuilding and construction industry the issue we face as an underfloor heating installer is that many of the sites we were working on in March, have simply shut up shop. This is both frustrating and understandable - understandable because the wellbeing of every worker in the construction industry has had to be prioritised, and frustrating because our business has continuity plans in place, product ready to install and teams are able to work within social distancing guidelines.
“However, we’ve found ourselves forced to take our foot off the pedal a little but, I’m pleased to say, I consider us to be in a good position from which to bounce back when all of this is over. This is something which resonates with my contacts across the industry – commenting it was those who had invested in crisis management planning who stood out when the lockdown kicked in. Those who had put sensible financial decision making in place early on to (hopefully) make the difference in a month or so’s time when things might start to begin to get back up and running.
“If we follow in any way what happened in China, we can probably bank on at least three months of major disruption which, given where we are now and picking apart the various plans which Government has in place, we may start to see some stronger signs of life again in June. Of course we don’t yet know how our lockdown will be eased, but even if industry sectors like housebuilding and construction are prioritised, it's unlikely that it will simply be a case of picking up where we left of.
“Along with my peers, I think that we'll all face some supply chain challenges as we all rise to our feet again. Perhaps as we saw with the supermarkets – when panic-stricken shoppers stockpiled on supposed essentials, all this did was catch the supermarket's off guard and leave them playing catch up. Translating this to the construction industry, many firms downed tools within days of the lockdown being announced - the impact of that has almost been frozen in time, but what will happen when everyone returns to work? Might our supply chains experience an overload on demand, generating a bumpy ride for installer trades over the months that follow?
“Those businesses who were cash rich at the start of this outbreak and who’ve taken sound financial advice, will have the strength to bounce back and absorb these inevitable bumps. There’s a concern however that some organisations who might have tried to keep going over the past couple of months will have exhausted their reserves and won’t have anything left to keep them in business. As our Politicians and their Advisors have said all along, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Thankfully a generous furlough provision has been put in place to help protect our economy, but even with this, those who fail to realise that things won’t simply return to normal by the summer, will no doubt find themselves forced to cease trading.
“I’m pleased to say though, that all the contacts I spoke to when researching this piece, felt positive about the housing market bouncing back fairly quickly, as there is still a shortage of properties in the UK and the demand is there. We will bounce back from this and while we probably won’t see life fully return to normal for many, many months, I’m confident we’ll back working, safely before too long, making the nation’s homes healthier and more comfortable to live in.
"And lastly, a big thank you to all our customers who have managed to keep sites open during this challenging time, it is a huge contribution in helping us to pay staff and suppliers. We are in this together, thank you!"