News for Tool Hire, Equipment Hire & Plant Hire and Rental Professionals

Life on the street

13 August 2020

Life on the street

For years we’ve seen the decline of high street shopping and the rise in online retail, a trend accelerated by the Covid-19 outbreak.

The Office of National Statistics states that internet sales as a percentage of retail sales rose from 11.9% in June 2015 to 31.2% in June 2020. And the last few months have seen store closures announced by John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Boots and Halfords, amongst others.

In the recent past, many hirers have relocated or opened depots on trading estates away from town centres, citing better transport, parking and storage space. However, I think the high street hirer still has its place.

Traditional hire shop

I’ve been speaking with Stuart Parker, Director of Parker Tool Hire in Nottingham. It’s a traditional one-depot hire shop on a main road and cornering a residential street. He says footfall has been considerable during and following the lockdown.

“The DIY market has been amazing. People have been doing jobs around their homes, creating strong demand for compaction plates, wallpaper strippers, rotavators, and gardening equipment. We ran out of mixers and had to buy two more.

“Also, in many cases, hire periods were extended when people couldn’t get materials from merchants who were still closed. They had to source them elsewhere and kept the equipment on hire because they knew we were busy and didn’t want to risk being without it,” says Stuart.

Avoiding city centres

“I think a lot of people are avoiding larger shopping complexes and city centres because of social distancing, queuing to get in and having to wear a mask for long periods. They prefer to visit a local shop because they can be in and out quickly,” he adds.

“What’s more, they now seem to appreciate what we are offering. There’s less haggling about hire rates. Previously, some customers would virtually demand free delivery, a free tank of fuel and the rest, but there’s now a sense of gratitude, especially as some other hirers in the area are still closed.”

Parker Tool Hire shut in March but reopened in May. Stuart says demand dipped slightly when the glorious summer weather ended, live sport came back on TV and the pubs reopened, but he expects that home owners will maintain their DIY interest and keep coming back to their local hire shop.

Social distancing

“More tradesmen and builders are back at work now, but I think there might be some demand bottlenecks because of social distancing and the need to reduce the number of site workers, causing delays. Nevertheless, business is picking up steadily,” he says.

On 21 July, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced planning system reforms “cutting out unnecessary bureaucracy to give small business owners the freedom they need to adapt and evolve, and to renew our town centres with new enterprises and more housing.”

Mixed-use housing

Also, Dame Sharon White, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, has suggested that some of its stores earmarked for closure could be turned into houses. In a letter to staff she said, “We are exploring with third parties the concept of new mixed-use affordable housing.”

The government’s overall aim is to have more homes close to shops and services. So perhaps there will be life on the high street, and footfall for local hirers, for some time yet.

Life on the street


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