Look beyond lockdown
22 February 2021
We will know more later today about the proposed path to something like normality and its likely duration when Boris Johnson announces his much anticipated ‘road map’ for easing the lockdown, first in the House of Commons this afternoon and then in a televised press briefing this evening.
The sense of expectancy has increased even more following the astonishingly fast pace of the vaccination rollout, which is a huge testament to the NHS.
The prime minister is also thought to be planning a testing ‘blitz’ of millions of people using lateral flow tests – something highlighted earlier in my blog post last Tuesday about the The Hireman. This London independent is taking advantage of this initiative to rapidly show whether staff members have Covid-19 or not.
The big question is how strong any bounce back will be and its speed. Certainly, the recent strength of Sterling, the positive performance of global stock markets and the meteoric – if not unnerving – rise in the price of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency, suggests that traders are optimistic about a recovery on the back of a rapid worldwide vaccine rollout.
Indeed, chancellor Rishi Sunak’s budget statement on 3 March is as eagerly awaited as the prime minister’s today with measures to restore economic growth and protect jobs.
So businesses face a dilemma about whether or not they should plan for a sustained recovery and invest accordingly. Much obviously depends on a company’s customer base and the particular market it serves.
One hirer that certainly believes the glass is half full is award-winning Rocket Rentals of Slimbridge in Gloucestershire. Managing director Simon Tomblin tells me that the company has continued to invest steadily in its fleet, ready for an upturn.
“We’re buying kit now to ensure we have availability and while suppliers have stocks. You have to be prepared and if the vaccine rollout continues to go well, there could be a significant increase in business after Easter.
“The government has also committed to put ‘build, build, build’ at the heart of the recovery, and as a nation we are still playing catch-up in terms of new house construction.”
Recent Rocket Rentals orders include no fewer than 46 machines from JCB including 6-tonne site dumpers, CT260 tandem rollers and a fleet of 18Z-1, 57C-2 and 86C-2 compact excavators (pictured).
“We’ve also been buying a lot more dehumidifiers and heaters lately and we are getting deliveries all the time,” says Simon. “Furlough and a reduction in holidays have also brought greater demand for DIY and home improvement related hires.”
Two other blog posts that I wrote last week express similar sentiments. In Friday’s Q & A, Neil Bravery of Skipton Hire Centres said: “Construction won’t stop - we’ve seen the evidence throughout last year. Summer holidays in 2021 are looking less likely, so people will undoubtedly continue to invest in their homes and that means hirers will again benefit.”
And according to Daren Hare of Hares Hire Services in Rainham, in last Monday's post which mentioned the company's current trading outlook: “I think the domestic and homeowner market will be strong again this year as people get projects done.”
Daren also added, however: “There’s definitely work out there. The big question is how much of it is genuinely new and not contracts that were ongoing or already planned before the lockdown.”
Let’s hope that today’s announcement gives the clarity we need and reinforces this positive mood.