Following the Prime Minister’s address on Monday 23rd March outlining stricter measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus / COVID-19, a number of builders’ merchants have taken the decision to close for business until further notice.
Amongst those to have shut temporarily are all companies within the Travis Perkins Group, Jewson, Graham, Buildbase, Selco and Huws Gray / Ridgeons. Merchants such as EH Smith and Elliotts have closed for collections, but are continuing to maintain delivery services.
Highlighting the need to slow the spread of the disease to ensure the NHS doesn’t become overwhelmed, the Prime Minister said:
“From this evening I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home. Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.
That is why people will only be allowed to leave their home for the following very limited purposes:
- Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
- One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household;
- Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person; and
- Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home.
That’s all – these are the only reasons you should leave your home.”
Following the address, subsequent guidance from the government outlined the ‘Further businesses and premises to close’. Along with the likes of supermarkets and pharmacies, one of the exception categories was ‘Home and Hardware shops’ which appears to have been generally accepted to include builders’ merchants and equivalent businesses.
However, in light of the overall advice designed to restrict non-essential travel and interaction, a number of builders’ merchant businesses quickly moved to take decisive action. A statement from Travis Perkins’ CEO Nick Roberts said: “The COVID-19 situation continues to develop rapidly, and in the light of the new Government guidance announced by our Prime Minister this evening, and in order to protect the wellbeing of our people and our customers, we have decided to close all businesses within the Travis Perkins plc Group with immediate effect.
“We will review the Government guidance as it emerges so we can seek to fulfil the essential services we provide to our customers within the new restrictions. Travis Perkins has always been guided by its values. We have not taken this decision lightly but the safety of our people, our customers and the communities in which we serve will forever remain our number one priority.”
A similar message was conveyed by Grafton Group businesses Buildbase and Selco, whilst a statement from Saint-Gobain UK companies such as Jewson and Graham to customers said: “Following the Prime Minister’s announcement on Monday evening [23rd March] we have taken the decision to close all our branches and offices. This closure will be in effect for 24 hours on Tuesday 24th March while we seek urgent clarification from the UK Government about how we can operate our business within the Government guidelines.
“We want to play our part in helping the country overcome this crisis. We have been doing this by taking steps to protect our people from the risk of the virus. We also do this by helping our customers provide essential maintenance of homes and public buildings, helping self-employed customers stay in business and by providing essential livelihoods for all our colleagues.
“As you will appreciate this is a very difficult decision. Above all safety, wellbeing and health has to come first.” The group said it will be providing a further update to the situation by 5:00pm on Tuesday 24th March.