13th May 2020.
Business during the Coronavirus Crisis at TALL Security Print.
Business was going really well at the start of the year with sales above budget and export orders achieved after hosting three separate delegations from overseas visitors.
Then, Bang! In mid-March, the Government announced a lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic and everything changed overnight.
The usual business orders from retail, hotels, restaurants and pub chains slowed down dramatically but on the other hand, we received sizable orders for prescriptions pads for the NHS and a large cheque/letter mailing from a major bank reimbursing customers for an overcharge.
At the same time, staff were absent due to coronavirus symptoms or due to a family member displaying symptoms. So, both customer orders and staff availability were varying by the day whilst the Government was issuing new guidelines on a regular basis and the term ‘furlough’ came into our vocabulary.
In the meanwhile, we introduced a safe working process, which involved purchasing large quantities of hand sanitisers, extra soap dispensers, hand wipes, social-distancing and rotation in the kitchen/canteen areas.
So, it has been quite chaotic. Two major export orders were received but, overall, the orders were significantly down, which led to the sad situation where we had to ‘furlough’ about 20% of the staff. This has resulted in a massive learning curve in understanding the process of reclaiming the 80% salaries paid to furloughed staff.
However, things have settled down in relation to the staff so that they have all been available for work on site during the past two weeks. We are ‘coronavirus free’. Thank God.
TALL Security Print has remained open for business and has offered to ‘send a cheque’ service to allow businesses to outsource their Accounts Payable function if their offices are closed. We can also offer a BACS Bureau.
The official predictions are for a 35% fall in GDP in the April –June quarter, which sounds horrendous for business, especially in the Chester area.
It is my opinion that with careful planning for safe working, many businesses could open and return to work NOW including retail, garden centres, DIY, dry cleaners, drive through take-aways and most professional offices even if only with 50% occupancy. Manufacturing and construction were never required to stop in the first place and recycling centres should never have closed. However, it will take longer for pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants to figure out how to operate safely, which will have a big impact on a city like Chester.
Nevertheless, without a steady but careful reopening of the economy in the near future, it will mean the end for some business.
Good luck to all the members of the excellent Chester Business Club. Keep Fighting!
Finance Director, TALL Security Print Ltd