The global effects of the Coronavirus pandemic continue to evolve rapidly, presenting huge challenges for all businesses in the industry. Ian Mitchell, Joint Managing Director of Bristol Uniforms, explains how the company has navigated through these difficult times.
Bristol Uniforms began to feel the first effects of the Coronavirus pandemic well before lockdown in the UK. We have a network of distributors supplying customers around the globe and we rely on suppliers and manufacturing contractors based in many different countries. We have weavers based in Spain, for example, and gloves are sourced from Germany. Our principal supplier of leather boots is Jolly, a specialist boot manufacturer based in the Lombardy region of Italy.
On March 8 this region went into lockdown and Jolly had to close completely. Fortunately, since we had been preparing for Brexit, we had pre-ordered a fair amount of stock from our European suppliers in the event that future trading became difficult. We were just about able to manage with existing boot stocks until their lockdown eased. Then on March 16 we were very concerned to hear that the Czech Republic, where two of our manufacturing contractors are based, was closing its borders. It was a huge relief when we received confirmation that commercial freight was able to pass through.
During this period, we had conversations with many customers who were concerned about what might happen if we had to cease operating. As essential key workers, firefighters would of course continue to work during lockdown. Their PPE would need cleaning and repairing, and many were expecting deliveries of new kit. As an important supplier to the emergency services it was clear that we too would need to keep operating to support them.
Since we have a mature Business Continuity Plan (BCP) and Committee, we were able to immediately enact contingency plans in case any of our facilities were affected by a coronavirus outbreak. We have two Service Centres operating in different parts of the country (Bristol and London), so we were able to reassure our customers that we would have been able to manage the cleaning and maintenance of kit if one were to close. As an additional back-up, we have BCP arrangements with a commercial laundry in Bath that would step in if both sites were compromised.
Read the full article on our digital issue, pages 24-25.