Different and the same

Covid-19 has had a big impact on UK industry but underlying demand and growth opportunities remain the same argues Bohle’s Dave Broxton.

Things are clearly different. We have and continue to go through a period of significant personal and economic upheaval nationally and globally. It has been and it remains difficult but business goes on and demand remains.

During lockdown it’s very easy to imagine that markets are evaporating and that business is drying up. The impact on the economy is clear: the Office for Budgetary Responsibility has forecast that the UK could suffer as much as a 35% drop in GDP in the quarter to June.

It is also, however, predicting that the UK will return to its pre-Covid growth trajectory by the end of this year.

Why? Because the demand seen in construction remains intact. Housebuilding, the commercial sector, construction in general, was on a growth trajectory. That was and is based on demand; demand for new homes, public buildings and office space.

There was also significant demand from the home improvement sector in the first quarter of this year. Consumer confidence has since been shaken; there are a lot of households looking over their shoulder, concerned about job security and payments.

The other side of that coin is that the furlough scheme has, so far, meant that jobs have been retained. House prices have held up (despite the stagnation of the market), cash is cheap, and the appetite to improve rather than move remains. Households on lockdown have a lot of time to consider their next home improvements.

And there are new and emerging markets. As Asia came out of its lockdown, restaurants and shops reopened, introducing new glass screening and partitioning to provide customers and their staff with a sense of security.

It is not unreasonable to think that the UK could follow, delivering a potentially huge pull-through of glass.

As an industry, we need to be exploring emerging opportunities, while not losing sight of the growth that we saw at the start of this year.

Most importantly, we need to be reviewing our processes so that we can work together safely. That isn’t easy. Bohle has remained open throughout lockdown, supplying customers working in emergency glazing, and critical commercial projects.

We have done this while following government guidelines. Extending these protections so that we can fulfil growing demand is the new challenge every business will have to contend with in the coming months.

I am, however, confident that as industry we will do this, working responsibly together to adapt to what will be a new requirement for working, at the least in the medium term.

The change here, is about delivery. The demand for our products and services is constant.