From David Thornton, Chair, The Window Company (Contracts) Ltd
In the simplest terms, our business is measuring an aperture, ordering a window or door and fitting it. Add on selling it and getting paid to the beginning and the end of that, and you’ve got most of the picture. Over more than a decade, we’ve honed every single one of those elements and become one of the most efficient commercial installation businesses in the industry.
But Covid is currently putting paid to all of that. Like every business working at the sharp end of this industry, it is affecting every single stage of our operation and, despite sustained demand, our margins are under intense pressure. We’re determined to stay open, but at what cost?
Surveys are often cancelled, fabricators are unable to offer timely supply, and illness, shielding and general anxiety amongst residents are drastically affecting the number of installations we can complete. We are constantly having to track changes in delivery dates, and cancel and reschedule installations, sometimes at the last minute when a resident or even one of our own fitters is ill or self-isolating – and it’s proving to be a costly and time-consuming business.
And that’s before we even get to the right and wrong of it. Yes, we need to fit to survive and the government has clearly said that in England and Wales, tradespeople can still work in other people’s homes, but we also need to survive to fit. Since the start of the second wave, every business has surely had to question whether we are asking our staff to take an unacceptable risk with their health, while there is such an increased risk of infection?
I know that the carefully written Covid-19 secure protocols penned by eminent people inside and outside the industry should, in theory, protect everyone, but the fact is that they can’t unless they are scrupulously followed – not just during the installation itself but on the journey there and back as well. And the reality is that it’s not always happening.
There is a light at the end of our tunnel of course in the form of the mass vaccination programme but, for installers, it can’t come soon enough. I don’t think any of us wants to see the signs going up which say ‘Closed, but with fixed costs’.