The impact of COVID-19
This month has seen us resume some of our works as contracts have begun to filter through slowly. It has been brilliant for our team to be able to crack on with projects that came to a halt when lockdown was imposed. Of course, all our activity is now taking place under strict new working practices which observe additional health and safety measures regarding COVID-19.
Since the beginning of June, we’ve restarted works for our long-term client Trailfinders at their Solihull and Canterbury premises, as well as for the English Heritage site Kenwood House at Hampstead Heath. We’ve also handed over projects that we were putting the finishing touches to when lockdown was imposed, such as Travis Perkins in Weybridge. Take a look at the progress of these projects here.
We are grateful to our clients for recommencing their projects and allowing us to get back to doing what we do best. However, despite our relief at being able to restart work, we are fearful of the inevitable economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic. There are sure to be casualties across all sectors, and there is no doubt that some organisations will not survive the fallout.
At DRF Electrical, our experience of the crisis has mirrored that of many in the construction sector. We’ve seen a variety of effects on the industry, some of which have been immediate or short-term, while others will have more of a long-term impact.
Construction may have been allowed to continue during lockdown but that doesn’t mean all projects carried on as normal. Disruption hit the supply chain, investment halted, and there was a drop in current activity and future orders. Many projects were put on hold or under review, and some were completely cancelled. A significant part of our work at DRF Electrical is in the retail and hospitality sectors and it is well-known how hard these industries have been hit.
The pandemic also forced a sea of change in working practices on site. Social distancing and other measures aimed at keeping people healthy impacted how we viewed the safety of our workers. Many employers and contractors temporarily downed tools while procedures were put in place to adhere to the new guidelines, assess the risk of the virus spreading, and ensure everyone was working as safely as possible.
In the long term, we envisage that the lack of investment and future orders will continue while companies consolidate their position in the market place. Many projects are still on hold, while others remain under review. The supply chain continues to be affected, with lead times for materials getting longer, particularly on imports from abroad, and the cost of those materials rising proportionally.
Despite financial support through Government schemes such as the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) which allowed employers to claim back 80% of a furloughed employee’s wage, and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), many contractors are still struggling. Cashflow has been a particular issue for many contractors, and is unlikely to improve any time soon as clients delay payment while they review their budgets and endeavour to get their businesses back on track.
The retail industry may be back up and running, but it’s operating under restricted conditions and many consumers have not returned to shops and are not considering doing so in the near future. As restrictions relax even further from July 4th, bars and restaurants will be able to re-open with social distancing measures in place.
The return to operations for many businesses is fantastic news but there is surely a long, hard road ahead for us all.
Everyone stay safe and take care.