Emergency response

Companies quick to respond to Covid-19 have seen rapid growth throughout lockdown and beyond. Nick Lewis, owner of SGS Glass Products, explains how he identified opportunities across a number of sectors – including hospitality and leisure, commercial, and office fit-out – for protective screens

We didn’t ever stop; we were working throughout because the demand was there, and since we’ve come out of lockdown it’s been incredible.

There’s a guy on the same estate as us, and he was supplying perspex screens. Very quickly the supply ran out and he talked to us about an alternative.

Nothing came directly out of that approach, but it helped us to identify an opportunity for our own products.

Glass is an infinitely better product anyway. It’s not only the barrier that keeps people safe;  it’s the regular cleaning of it. The products that are being used to clean are 90% alcohol. That leads to damage and discoloration on plastic; perspex-type screens aren’t a long-term solution.

Some of the businesses we’ve worked with also wanted something that delivered a better aesthetic. The Bohle solution does that.

Available either as a clamped or free-standing option, VetroScreen has been developed by Bohle as a screen solution for hotels, receptions, bars and screen adjacent desks in open-plan offices.

Able to accommodate glass thicknesses of 4mm to 10mm, we used the weighted desktop version, which is manufactured in high-quality powder-coated aluminium and steel with a high-performance adhesive base. This provides a solid foundation for glass screens typically of up to 800mm high.

A clamp on version is also designed to be fitted in minutes, sliding over the edges of a desk or table and tightened. This creates a secure fix without drilling for screens typically up to 1,000mm high.

We have used it across a wide range of applications from estate agents and offices to a gun-shop as well as the hotel and hospitality industry, including Brighton’s iconic Grand Hotel where it was installed in the reception and concierge.

They look fantastic – far neater than competitor systems.

We did the main reception and concierge in 10mm glass. Weight was a concern: the glass was 800mm high, so it is quite heavy but with the returns, which we jointed with Bohle jointing strips, and the adhesive on the bottom, it was incredibly stable without having to drill and permanently fix into the surface.

Modelling by Bohle suggests that Covid-19 cough and sneeze-guard screens plus Covid-related office re-fits, and new requirements to segregate space in the leisure sector, represent a £multi-million new market for the glass processing sector.

This is backed up by new research which suggests that, far from representing the end of the offices, UK companies ultimately want staff to return to work but will need to cut staff numbers by 30%-50% as well restructuring space to meet social distancing guidelines and to minimise risk, creating significant new demand for processed glass.

So far, we haven’t seen huge demand from the office sector but that may come. For us it’s mainly been the hospitality sector. That may reflect where we are here on the south coast. I think the demand from the leisure sector has a shelf life; hotels and restaurants have geared up for reopening.

This is how it’s going to be for a while. Things may be easing but local lockdowns are going to be part of life, so businesses need to put in measures to make sure that they can continue to operate if restrictions and controls are tightened. I don’t think for a moment we’re through this.

That creates an opportunity for anyone in glass. As a product, it’s perfect.