Independent plumbers merchant Gills Plumbing & Heating in Welwyn Garden City completed a rebrand in early-March and had planned to invite customers in to show-off the new look store. However, the Covid-19 pandemic caused the country lockdown and the proved impossible.
The merchant, a member of the IPG buying group, quickly 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, many local householders required water softener and salt, and Gills delivered essential products to the doorsteps of those who were self-isolating and vulnerable.
The company 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 two customers allowed in the shop at any one time.
During the early days of the pandemic, the common message published across the IPG marketing channels highlighted those member businesses that remained open, advising opening times and the level of service they were providing
Kania said: “IPG are an essential part of our business and during 2020 they offered vital advice and support. 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. We are proud to be part of The IPG, and to demonstrate this with our jointly branded store.”
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.