Business boost for Dorset
26 June 2020
Dorset Hire Services reports strong business levels and is confident about future prospects. This is largely due to the positive way in which staff have responded during the pandemic and because it has taken advantage of financial measures that the government has made available to help small businesses, including those in rural areas.
The company has depots in Shaftesbury and Evercreech, the latter trading under the name Somerset Hire Services.
“We thought it was sensible to apply for a Small Business Grant and the money was made available within 24 hours,” Managing Director Luke George told me. “In the Budget, before the coronavirus outbreak, the government had already announced that business rates relief was available for small businesses and that’s been a big help, too."
Under the Small Business Grant, companies in England which pay little or no business rates are entitled to a one-off cash grant of £10,000 from their local council, who should have provided firms with details of how to claim. The grant does not have to be paid back but it is taxable. The Scottish Government has introduced the similar Small Business Bonus Scheme relief (SBBS) or Rural Relief initiative (closing date for SBBS applications is 10 July).
“Like other companies, we closed as soon as the lockdown was announced on 23 March," said Luke. "However, I kept getting calls from customers who urgently needed equipment. So after a week I came back and did what I could, making deliveries myself. Three weeks later, all nine of the team were back with social distancing measures in place, and we have reconfigured both shops with one-way systems for customer flows.”
Luke said that since then, business has really bounced back. “May was actually a record month. I know we are a small company but we noticed a significant upturn after Brexit at the end of January. People felt confident and were getting projects started. We were absolutely flat out the week before the virus hit.
“We have kept in touch with all our customers throughout and business has boomed, with much demand coming from people who have been furloughed and tackling jobs in their homes or gardens. The number of cash customers has risen dramatically and some jobbing builders - who are our bread and butter - are telling us they’ve never been busier. Some have been saying it has been difficult to get materials because of shortages at builders’ merchants.”
Luke founded Dorset Hire Services four years ago, having previously worked for Sydenhams Hire Centres and, before that, Frome Hire Centre (which Sydenhams acquired).
“We’ve picked up where we left off before Covid,” he said. “I think that independents like us could flourish. We have an extensive fleet, ranging from tools and towers to Takeuchi diggers. We also offer specialist equipment for farmers and, even, cheese producers. If you’re flexible and dedicated enough, the business is there.”