After the prime minister told the nation on Monday evening that all UK citizens should stay home unless they absolutely had to go out to work, many of the country’s largest builders’ merchants group responded by closing the doors of their stores, though maintaining certain essential deliveries.
Travis Perkins, Jewson, Howdens, Huws Gray Ridgeons, Selco and BuildBase were among those closing their branches. [See our report yesterday.]
However, they have now been told by government, via their trade association, to get their doors back open.
During a Construction Leadership Council Taskforce briefing with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) requested and received clarification on builders’ merchants’ operational status following the nationwide lockdown.
BEIS confirmed that merchants are a vital part of the construction supply chain and that it is important that they continue to support the construction industry to operate on sites. However, all operations should be carried out while observing Public Health England (PHE) guidelines.
BMF chief executive John Newcomb said: “The advice we received from BEIS following this morning’s briefing call makes it clear that merchants should continue to operate. Ideally, this should be through online and delivery services, but those who need to maintain depot service are able to do so providing they observe PHE guidance including social distancing, cleaning and hygiene, staff welfare and all other means to minimise the risks of transmitting coronavirus.”
Builders’ merchants are told that stores should consider how to manage their operations, including ordering and collection systems, to maintain hygiene and social distancing. It is not necessary to open to the public – just trade – but if they do, they should consider restrictions on the number of people in store at any one time.
Meanwhile, online-only builders' merchant BSO reports that it has seen demand double for materials such as timber and insulation since the crisis began.