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Business / Builders merchants stage limited re-opening to public

Demand for DIY supplies is high during lockdown

LERWICK builders merchants have this week expanded the services they are offering during the coronavirus pandemic, partly in response to public demand.

Hardware shops and equipment, plant and tool hire shops are among the list of “exempt” businesses allowed to stay open in Scotland during the pandemic.

Isles builders’ merchants have nonetheless seen a loss of trade and have been offering restricted services over the past five weeks or so, whilst reducing staff numbers at work.

Hay & Co Buildbase has experienced a surge in sales since opening up a click and collect service yesterday (Wednesday).

Prior to that, the long established business had only been open for sale of emergency heating and plumbing equipment to tradespeople and the sale of coal and the like for essential heating.

Hay & Co Buildbase manager Graham McAllister.

Branch manager Graham McAllister said that trade had been down about 90 per cent before opening the click and collect service.

He said: “We have been doing emergency products in the last six weeks. We now have a click and collect and delivery service, but not allowing anyone on the shop.”

Customers have to phone or email their order and make payment first before being allocated a time slot for collection. Goods can only be picked up from the yard or outside the shop.

According to McAllister building work has largely ground to a halt in the isles apart from emergency work, though people are obviously itching to get on with their DIY jobs.

Building supplier DITT has also added a click and collect service this week.

Its Facebook page says: “After some consideration we are pleased to be able to introduce our ‘click and collect’ operation for our shop.

“This will operate on a trial basis, with limited hours and staff availability, so we would ask for your patience when using the system.”

Details of how the collection-only service operates are also given on the page.

“We would of course remind you of your responsibility regarding essential travel for key workers. The advice on whether or not you should travel can be found on the SIC website. The advice continues to be that you should not be travelling unless your journey is essential,” DITT adds.

Managing director Peter Tait said that they had decided to offer the limited service for people “keen to get stuff done”, with the phone “ringing off the hook” with enquiries.

DITT finance director Peter TaitPeter Tait of DITT.

The click and collect is being run by one staff member with no direct contact with the public, he added. The firm was also taking the opportunity to remind the public of their responsibilities during the lockdown, including making no unnecessary journeys.

Tait said that DITT’s building work had ceased on 23 March and the shop had lost a full month’s business, estimated to be worth over £100,000.

Gremista Industrial Estate-based chain store Jewson has decided against opening a click and collect service to the general public, in line with its national policy.

Manager Wayne Uren said that although business had been down to 20 per cent of usual, before picking up a bit this week, nothing had changed regarding the governments’ rules on unnecessary journeys. Travelling to the building supplier for a “tub of mastic” was not essential travel, he said.

Uren said that Jewson had been making deliveries and supplying only trade account customers picking up essential heating materials and emergency building supplies, but this week had expanded that to include a collect service for builders with customer accounts who were unable to access business support.

“We are not offering a click and collect for the general public,” he said, adding that Jewson had been “inundated” with phone calls from people wondering if they can make a trip to the shop.

The company has been operating limited hours from 9am to 1pm Monday to Thursday and 9am to 3pm on Friday, with reduced staff, over the last few weeks.

Animal feed suppliers are also exempt from closure and Harbro is still supplying food for livestock and pets. It has not banned the public from the shop, but it discouraging browsing.

Small amounts of feed can be collected from outside the front door and larger amounts collected from the back of the shop, where there are fewer people likely to pass by.

Jamieson’s wool mill at Sandness, meanwhile, has closed its doors to the public, but continues to operate with a “very skeleton staff” said owner Peter Jamieson.

“Things will have to change a lot before we reopen,” he said.

“We are having to employ some distancing, which there is space for here, and observe the rules and regulations, the same as everywhere else.”