Merchants look for clarification after latest Government coronavirus statement

24 March 2020

Builders merchants and DIY stores are currently assessing their positions following the government’s latest coronavirus update which seems to keep the door open for their continued operation.

The wider construction products industry is seeking further clarification on what the Government statement means for companies operating in the sector.

A new list of shops and businesses required to close for the next three weeks was published by the government yesterday (view here ) to try and slow the spread of coronavirus. Merchants were not specifically mentioned, while DIY retailers were listed as exempt from the closure order as providing essential goods.

On the merchanting front, Travis Perkins released a statement saying its branches were temporarily closed and it had stopped taking online orders.

“We will be seeking to work with the Government over the coming days as to how we can fulfil the essential services that we provide to our country's social infrastructure,” it said.

Saint-Gobain announced the closure of all UK distribution branches, warehouses, offices, and manufacturing facilities.

“This closure will be in effect for 24 hours on Tuesday 24th March while we seek urgent clarification from the UK Government about how we can operate our business within the Government guidelines,” it said.

Donaldson Timber Engineering, Vastern Timber, Alsford Timber, Huws Gray and Gripsure were among timber sector companies and merchants announcing temporary closure of site operations in response to the Government statement, while window producer George Barnsdale said it would stay open.

Building trade supplier Howden Joinery said today it had decided to temporarily close all its UK depots with immediate effect after the Government statement.

"We will continue to review the new guidance as it emerges and will update further in due course," it said. "We will seek to explore ways in which we can support our customers."

National DIY retailer B&Q acknowledged the DIY and hardware store sector had been categorised as an essential retailer by the government.

“We are now working out the safest and simplest way to support communities in providing only essential products moving forwards,” it said.

“Our stores, as we prepare, will be closed Tuesday 24th March.”

Both the Builders Merchant Federation, Timber Trade Federation and Construction Products Association were having meetings this morning (March 24) and are due to post statements later for their members.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said greater clarity was needed from the Government with respect to construction sites remaining open.

“Our members want to do the right thing, but the advice coming from Government is anything but clear,” said Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB.

“I am calling on the Government to tell my members, today, whether they can continue to go on site and work. Small builders cannot work from home, but without cash grants available now, they risk seeing their livelihoods lost.”

The Construction Leadership Council has published a construction site operating procedures document for builders to follow to adhere to government guidelines and safe continued site operation.

To read this document see here

Travis Perkins is seeking greater clarification from the Government