Gill's Plumbing & Heating, an IPG member based in Welwyn Garden City has continued to respond to the current business landscape
Gill's began the year by rebranding their store inside and out, with new store signs clearly identifying them as an IPG member, it was looking great in the spring sunshine, and then COVID 19 arrived and dictated what happened next.
Normally, there would have been a celebration and promotion, inviting customers to see the new look store however, Gills found themselves in extraordinary times. In early March, whilst the trade counter remained open, footfall dropped dramatically and home installations that were booked in had to be postponed.
When the country went into lockdown at the end of March, it became clear that businesses that could adapt quickly would have a better chance of flourishing again. Gill's adapted to new customer requirements, plumbers and installers were still supporting their customers with emergencies, so it was important that the essential trade counter remained open. In addition, local households required water softener and salt, and Gills were delivering these essential products to the doorsteps of those who were self-isolating and vulnerable.
It is often the small businesses which will adapt to a quick changing business environment, and in this case, Gills modified their service to over the phone payment, safe collection, and deliveries, ensuring their customers were able to shop in their local area – which clearly demonstrates the importance of independent stores all over the country.
Chris Kania, Gills Managing Director also made some additional changes to the inside of his store, to keep staff and customers safe. Now a familiar sight in retail outlets, Perspex screens were installed across the counter, hand gel sanitiser made available on entering the store, the showroom, office and warehouse and visible social distance stickers were put on display – with only 2 customers allowed in the shop at any one time.
It has never been so important to support the independent merchant in the heart of your community, many of them (like Gills), have been part of it for decades. The IPG has played its part in supporting its members, for example, during the early days of the pandemic, the common message published across its marketing channels highlighted those member businesses that remained open, advising opening times and the level of service they were providing.
Chris said: “The IPG are an essential part of our business and during 2020 they offered vital advice and support.”
He went on to say: “Throughout more recent weeks, business has picked up, as our customers have returned to work, they are seeing more homeowners about non-emergency work, confidence has grown in the new working conditions and their customers are happy to have tradespeople working in their properties again.”
Homeowners are now visiting Gills for parts and to look at the bathroom showroom, a booking system has been introduced to maintain social distancing. This part of the business has remained very positive with many future installations in the pipeline.
So, to coin a phrase, Gills, like many of The IPGs members, have reached a new type of normal, and as Autumn falls they remain strong, having adapted their business in this ever changing landscape, continuing to offer unrivalled service and unbiased and honest advice.
And as for the new look? It continues to be well received amongst Gills regular customers, Chris commented: “We are proud to be part of The IPG, and to demonstrate this with our jointly branded store.”