Content writer, Grace Murphy, asks how has Coronavirus impacted the builders’ merchant industry?

Everyone everywhere has been affected by Coronavirus in some capacity. Whether that’s in a personal or professional context is simply a roll of the dice.

The builders’ merchant industry consists of all the sellers of products and materials used by construction companies, tradespeople, and even the average joe on the street. They’re the suppliers of builders, plumbers, and homeowners looking to do some DIY, important figures also in society’s functioning.

The builders’ merchant industry has experienced more activity than most during the pandemic, yet things are still far from rosy. What is the true cost for them in this turbulent point in time?

Here, in my view, is how the Coronavirus has impacted the builders’ merchant industry.

Essential status

Obviously, there will always be a need for builders’ merchants, and a pandemic will never erase them entirely. This explains why builders’ merchants have been granted essential status through multiple nationwide lockdowns.

It’s worth mentioning that many people have begun to undertake DIY projects where possible during the pandemic, due to having a greater supply of free time. Additionally, builders have had to work around lockdown measures in some cases, exempt from shutdowns and continuing in their work. It’s kept things moving somewhat, but obviously, it’s not a sustainable long-term arrangement at all. Construction may be vital, but a limping industry isn’t necessarily a thriving one.

For example, some construction sites shut down during the first lockdown despite instructions to not do so. They did this as they perceived the guidance at the time to be unclear, a common complaint from the public throughout the pandemic.

Still, the builders’ merchants themselves haven’t been completely rudderless, because some work is still coming in.   

Difficult setbacks

Unfortunately, essential status doesn’t mean being completely immune to bad luck. Many industries have suffered significant job cuts because of the pandemic, and the builders’ merchant industry is no exception.

Last June, BBC News reported that Wickes owner, Travis Perkins, was to cut 2,500 jobs, equivalent to nine per cent of its entire workforce. That’s a staggering figure for what has been dubbed in the same source as the UK’s biggest builders’ merchant.

Despite experiencing ‘improving trends’, it cited an inability to trade under pre-Covid conditions being responsible for their plans, alongside the expectation of a forthcoming recession later in 2021.  

There seems to be a ceiling of sorts that’s looming over builders’ merchants, making them unable to operate at peak efficiency. The setbacks sting and the limitations for all are stifling.

Still, while things aren’t what they were, there is at least some activity for builders’ merchants. Much is undecided, and only time will tell how everything falls into place further down the road.

Clear perseverance

Despite the turbulent times everyone is currently living in, builders’ merchants are being supplied with some measure of hope.

For example, ecology consultants like Arbtech continue to survey natural areas so that people can secure planning permissions for construction and development work. They recognise that Britain and its development projects need to keep moving, and so continue offering great speeds and unbeatable prices in all their work. Importantly, it has taken special precautions to ensure its business as usual, and it’s that kind of tenacity that keeps things ticking.

If ecological consultants are still providing services, it’s a telling sign that many builders’ merchants will still be needed. Why would somebody survey an area if development wasn’t going ahead? The answer is that they typically wouldn’t, so the activity of firms like Arbtech paints a more positive picture for builders’ merchants moving forward.