By Tom Bowtell, CEO
2020 has been a strange and difficult year for our industry so far and the final couple of months look like they will be very challenging too.
The impact of Covid and a full lockdown over spring and early summer impacted everyone in BCF membership, as you all struggled to keep up with new rules and regulations, to maintain production or cope with reduced demand and, of course, to keep employees as safe as possible. It took some time to get to grips with the new ‘normal’ but, overall, members seem to have weathered the storm better than many other industries.
It is true that some have been hit harder than others: those in the industrial coatings and printing ink sector have been impacted the most, as other parts of the manufacturing sector – such as auto and aero – were brought to a standstill for several months, and printed newspaper circulations significantly reduced. Conversely, decorative retail paints and also wallcoverings, after an initial slowdown in March, have seen demand soar as people were stuck at home with little to do, and flush with cash reclaimed from cancelled holidays abroad, took to DIY to pass the time.
We were just starting to see an uptick across other areas, with industrial coatings picking up as manufacturing accelerated and decorative trade paint sales returning to the previous year’s volumes thanks to increased construction activity. And now we have been hit with a second nationwide lockdown in England. While members are in a much better position than they were in March to understand the rules and make the necessary adjustments, we recognise that many will be negatively impacted yet again in the run up to Christmas and perhaps into the New Year.
And of course, in the background, the clock continues to tick down loudly and ominously on Brexit. The UK leaves the transition period on 1st January and we know our members are stepping up their preparations to comply with new UK rules, as well as adhere to existing EU regulations from the perspective of a ‘third country’ if they wish to continue to export there. In addition, many EU suppliers are having to get to grips with the new UK regimes and we understand members are looking to mitigate negative effects on their supply chains in the early days of 2021. As I write this we still don’t know the outcome of the FTA negotiations but hope that we will see a deal done, removing the prospects of tariffs, if little else, from the list of concerns many members have.
BCF has put a lot of our resources into assisting members with both Covid response and Brexit preparations over the past year. We continue to be available to members and offer whatever support we can to help ease the burden on you as much as we can. Please do get in touch if you have any queries or concerns and we will always do what we can to assist.