Lockdown proves no obstacle
21 October 2020
You might have thought that launching a new tool and equipment hire business literally a few days before the lockdown in March wouldn't be ideal timing – but the team behind the new start-up, Corby Hire Services (CHS), have responded to the challenge, working hard and quickly building a growing customer base.
The operation was established by managing director Steve Southon and his two co-directors, who saw an opportunity for a hire business in the Northamptonshire town. Steve has ten years’ industry experience, having worked for Jewson, Hirebase and access machinery specialist, Height for Hire.
“It’s gone fantastically well and way above expectations,” Steve tells me. “We could have held back but decided to just go for it, offering equipment like Kubota micro and mini excavators, Belle mixers and compaction plates, Camon rotavators and HSC beam lifters.
“When the lockdown was announced we discussed things and quickly decided that virtually everyone would be at home on furlough, doing DIY, getting work done in their homes and gardens, and small builders would want to keep working where possible. In a sense, it was the biggest marketing opportunity you could think of.”
What’s also significant is the role that social media has played as a platform to promote CHS. “We’re using Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Snapchat. One post on Facebook can reach 30,000 people. We also get a lot of business through word of mouth.”
Steve believes that the DIY and home improvement market will remain strong for some time to come. “We’re seeing a lot of repeat business from builders who are now doing indoor work. People are spending more time working from home and are improving their surroundings. A lot of homeowners are building extensions as offices and converting garages.”
Steve also did some ad hoc - but imaginative - market research during lockdown which has really paid dividends. “I went to the local B&M retail outlet and watched what people were buying. There were big empty spaces where garden trampolines and hot tubs should have been. They had sold literally hundreds.
“People were installing paved patios or concrete areas as hard standing for them, so we contacted local builders who might be doing this sort of work, asking what equipment they needed to hire. Others were putting in sunken garden features with artificial turf to stand them on, and we were really busy supplying turf cutters to remove the existing grass.
“We are finding that people want to keep using their hot tubs throughout the colder weather and they are asking contractors to convert garages or build gazebos at the bottom of their gardens to house them. Channels often need to be dug to lay power cables, creating demand for our mini excavators,” says Steve.
“I also approached some key suppliers to see what was new from them that we could find a market for. HSC’s Beam Lifter has proved really popular for installing bi-fold doors, lintels and for work involved in building extensions. It is narrow, easy to set up and all four wheels move so you can rotate beams into position.
“We’ve been buying more kit for the fleet as we’ve needed it, and have recently added heating and lighting equipment for the winter months.”