18 Sep, 2021 11:34:40
Delivery and Availability - The impact of COVID-19 and BREXIT
We are taking orders online and delivering as normal. However, trading conditions are far from normal. The Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic and Brexit are impacting all aspects of our business. On a daily basis we are facing increased shipping costs, sudden factory price increases, shipping delays, port disruptions, customs delays, component shortages, cancelled orders, postponed orders, short deliveries, product discontinuations and late shipments. The public are mostly unaware of this disruption. By working hard with trusted long term suppliers we are just about maintaining supplies although amidst this chaos it is difficult to predict delivery dates with certainty.
What this means for you:
- Our show centre is closed until further notice: We have no plans to re-open our show centre in the near future.
- Next day parcel delivery service: Our next day delivery service is slower than normal and delays are more likely. All parcel networks are swamped due to a national shortage of drivers combined with a continuing surge in online sales. Please allow a few days extra. If your order is more than one carton they may be delivered separately on separate days. Often the carriers are unable to provide useful information and the online tracking is often not working at present.
- Next day pallet deliveries:After holding up well for the first year of the pandemic, the pallet networks are now struggling to keep up with demand largely due to a national shortage of drivers. Next day delivery is not available in many areas and 3 working days is now typical. Saturday deliveries are not available everywhere and timed deliveries are less reliable. We are recommending book-in deliveries which normally take up to 5 working days.
- Stock products: Many of our products are in stock and delivered fast. Whenever possible we offer next day delivery or you can pick a delivery day which suits you. At busy times next day delivery is not possible and delivery may be a few days later. Since the pandemic started more products are out of stock due to exceptional demand and new stock is often late causing shortages and delays. We often see sudden surges in demand and as a result all of our stock is sold out within a few hours and often we have sold too many.
- Made to order products: Many of our products are individually made to order but delivery is much slower than normal due to unprecedented demand and supply chain disruptions. Please refer to the Delivery section within each individual product page for accurate up to date delivery information. A few products have been either temporarily or permanently discontinued as factories struggle to keep up with demand. We often receive little or no notice of extra delays or product withdrawals. Often factories cannot obtain vital components. Delivery times are much longer than we have ever seen before.
- Specific delivery information per product: The lead time varies from one product to another. Every product page includes a Delivery section with specific up to date delivery information. We have also added extra delivery information messages in prominent positions on every product page and on product listing pages.
- Customer service: We are trying to maintain our normal customer service as much as possible. However, as with all other aspects of our business everything is much slower than normal. We are experiencing a higher percentage of late deliveries, delays, shortages, cancellations and customer queries than ever before. We hope that this volatile and chaotic situation passes and we will resume our normal service as soon as we can.
- Phone enquiries: We are currently receiving unprecedented call volumes, often more calls than we can answer. We have therefore introduced reduced hours with phone lines open for a limited time on weekdays only. This will continue until we can restore our normal service.
- Email enquiries: We are currently receiving an unprecedented number of emails and we are unable to reply as quickly as normal. In the second half of 2020 we employed 5 new members of staff to assist and the number of daily replies is gradually catching up with the number of incoming emails. We are working hard to reply to simple queries within a few days. Replies to more complex queries may take a few days longer. If we need to consult an outside supplier or a delivery company our reply may take a few days longer. Please do not contact us more than once with any query as this may delay our response. We hope to resume our normal service soon.
We always comply fully with the law and in this fast moving situation we will react quickly if there is any significant change in our circumstances or government advice. We will update this page quickly if required to reflect any changes. Throughout the current crisis we have always been transparent, publishing honest and accurate information and explaining in advance how the crisis may affect the service our customers receive. We thank you all for your patience and understanding.
COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS UPDATE
- All staff are tested twice a week: In line with the latest UK government guidelines, all of our staff are tested twice a week with a lateral flow test. So far all results have been negative.
- All staff comply with government guidelines regarding safe working: Before the first shut-down in March 2020 we implemented stringent cleaning routines, social distancing measures and other safety precautions for the protection of our staff. We work efficiently in 4 large warehouses with around 5000 square feet of floor space per employee which makes social distancing easy. We are committed to the safety of our staff.
- Cleaning and hygiene: We have installed anti-bacterial gel dispensers and temperature scanners at convenient locations. Our rigorous procedures include frequent cleaning of commonly used shared surfaces, no tool sharing in our warehouses, extra printers in our offices, increased handwashing with antibacterial soap and minimal contact with others including a minimum distance of 2m between people. Disposable gloves, re-usable gloves, cloths, paper towels, cleaners and sprays are supplied to all staff as required.
- Work bubbles: We work safely in small bubbles to protect our staff using strict physical separation. Each bubble has a separate work area, a separate rest area, separate kitchen facilities and separate toilets. Communication between work bubbles is by email and mobile phone. In addition to reducing the risk to our staff this policy may also help to ensure continuity of service if one bubble is required to self-isolate.
- No visitors: We have reduced the number of visitors to the minimum. Our show centre is closed so no members of the public visit. The only visitors are delivery drivers bringing goods in or out and maintenance technicians carrying out essential work such as alarm engineers, equipment inspectors, electricians, plumbers and IT support engineers.
- Temperature checks: We check the temperature of all staff twice daily. We check the temperature of all visitors on arrival.
- No use of public transport: All of our warehouse and office staff travel to work alone in their own cars and do not use public transport.
- Safe home deliveries. Delivery drivers are keen to keep their distance, which is in everybody's interest. The normal requirement to sign for goods is not normally required at present. Instead, the driver will sign on your behalf. In a few cases a signature may be required, for example on a paper delivery note, but this should be completed remotely without breaching social distancing requirements.
- Volatile trading conditions: We are currently grappling with unprecedented chaos in our supply chains on a daily basis. Shortages and delays are getting worse every day. Shipping costs are still increasing with an ever increasing lack of space. Vital components such as nails, screws, bolts, brackets, sealant, tubs and paint pots, glass, insulation, wood and man made boards are in short supply, making it difficult for factories to complete orders on time. Often delays are not apparent until the last minute when long awaited components are simply not delivered on the expected date. Often manufactured items are delivered late due to the same shortages. For example, all shed manufacturers have a massive problem obtaining timber at present but they also have problems with everything else they buy in such as glass, roofing felt, stains and fixings.
- Global timber shortages: The worst affected industry of all is the timber industry, which is currently experiencing the worst crisis in living memory with a worldwide shortage. This crisis is apparent throughout the global supply chain from the forests of northern Europe to your local DIY store. We have continued to supply timber buildings throughout the crisis but deliveries are erratic and unpredictable, which makes it difficult to forecast delivery dates accurately.
- Customs delays: Before Brexit goods travelling from Europe to the UK crossed the border seamlessly with virtually no documentation required. Now complex procedures have been introduced in the UK and in Europe. In the UK the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) software has been introduced. CHIEF has not been widely distributed yet. For the most part documentation is submitted to HM Revenue and Customs by government approved transport companies, which can cause delays. In addition, because these procedures are new many factories in Europe fail to provide the correct information which causes further delays.
- Shortage of international drivers: You may recall that over 6000 European lorry drivers were stranded in Kent for days in December 2020 and spent Christmas Day in the cab of their truck. The M20 was closed to became a temporary lorry park while Manston Airport became an overflow lorry park. As part of Operation Stack 1100 British troops were drafted in to assist with traffic control and food distribution while standing by in case the security situation deteriorated. This was headline news across Europe over the Christmas period. As a result many European drivers still refuse to drive to the UK. The shortage of drivers often causes last minute delays with deliveries from our European suppliers.
- Shortage of drivers in the UK: Around 15,000 European drivers have left the UK since BREXIT. According to The Financial Times "an exodus of EU lorry drivers from the UK since Brexit has left the British haulage and logistics industry facing an acute staff shortage and a looming crisis for industrial and retail deliveries". According to Logistics UK, the trade body that was formerly the Freight Transport Association "we have never seen members as concerned as they are now”. The shortage of drivers has badly affected all major carrier networks and as a result we have seen a significant increase in the number of late deliveries to our customers this year.
- Transport companies unwilling to deliver to the UK: Many European transport companies have stopped delivering to the UK this year in order to avoid delays and due to concerns about complicated documentation and delayed customs clearance. Prices have risen by around 30% due to the lack of "back loads" from the UK to Europe. Normally the overall cost of our delivery is much cheaper if the transport company can find a back load from the UK to their home country. This year many trucks are heading home from the UK empty. This problem is expected to ease in time although it is a major concern now and we have seen no improvement so far.
- Factories unwilling to sell to the UK market: Several large European manufacturers have refused our orders this year because they are no longer willing to export to the UK. They are put off by the new procedures, preferring instead to concentrate on their core European market. We all hope this will improve in time but we expect a long wait with no progress at all yet.