The IPG has two great articles published by the World Plumbing Council in the latest newsletter November 2020. 

Business as usual for Gill's Plumbing & Heating

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 the 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, Gill’s found itself 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 Gill’s was delivering these essential products to the doorsteps of those who were self-isolating and vulnerable.

It is often the small businesses that will adapt to a quick-changing business environment, and in this case, Gill’s modified its service to over-the-phone payment, safe collection, and deliveries, ensuring its customers were able to shop in their local area — which clearly demonstrates the importance of independent stores all over the country.

Chris Kania, Gill’s 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 sanitizer was made available on entering the store, the showroom, office and warehouse, and visible social distance stickers were put on display – with only two 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 Gill’s) 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 Gill’s for parts and to look at the bathroom showroom, and 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, Gill’s, like many IPG members, has reached a new type of normal. As autumn falls they remain strong, having adapted their business in this ever-changing landscape, continuing to offer unrivaled service and unbiased and honest advice.

As for the new look? It continues to be well received among the regular Gill’s customers. Chris commented: “We are proud to be part of The IPG, and to demonstrate this with our jointly branded store.”

Local shops for local people...

During the current pandemic, now more than ever local retailers (and businesses) need your help to continue to serve the community. Small and independent retailers are important to the economic fabric of our society and are at the heart of our communities. It is important that we get behind them and show our support — we all play a part in their existence.

Why does The IPG support Independents? With a network of more than 200 carefully selected member locations nationwide, The IPG encourages plumbers, installers, and homeowners to shop locally and buy all their plumbing, heating, and bathroom goods from their local independent retailers (online and offline).
Why? Because local independents can be like a breath of fresh air, bringing much-needed originality and variety into communities. They are the backbone of our economy, run by local people, and you cannot beat the personal touch of an owner who knows the area. They tend to learn more about their customers and are much more likely to go above and beyond the call of duty — helping when they can, often giving you more choice and variety.

Working with many brands from across the plumbing, heating, and bathroom sector, IPG members can provide the same types of deals, if not better, then many well-known chains. What is more, when spending with local independent retailers, the money tends to stay in your community, which means other businesses and people in the area benefit.

Small independent businesses are much better at acting fast and adapting to a changing market, and IPG members are no exception. They have been able to change their plans or strategy much faster than larger competitors, with many demonstrating some amazing examples of reworking their businesses to offer essential services or goods during these unusual times.

Nike Lovell, IPG’s head of Marketing, said: “It is testament to the resolve of our members that they reacted quickly to COVID-19 challenges, adapting their businesses so they could continue to service and support their customers. Many have implemented ingenious new ways to continue trading and to evolve, whilst safeguarding customers and staff.”
She went on to say: “We have seen some amazing examples of business acumen; members have been very creative to ensure they have new ways of safely maintaining a high level of support to their neighborhoods.”

How can you help? If you have a local store that you support, look them up on social media platforms and follow and share with your friends and family This will help grow their exposure. You can also help your independent to build trust with others by giving a review online.

It takes passion and dedication to run a small independent business, so shop local, buy from an independent and support your community.

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