An early shift towards PPE and hand sanitiser for leisure supplier PMS International means operators have a go-to solution for a safe re-opening on July 4. International director Steve Beverley talks to Coinslot about the new product launches and the new normal.
One of the leisure sector’s leading product suppliers has pledged that it stands “ready and waiting” with warehouses full of PPE and hand sanitiser, in advance of the industry’s newly confirmed opening date of July 4.
Speaking to Coinslot earlier this week, PMS International director Steve Beverley said that the company had responded swiftly to the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic – and made the right call ahead of time with respect to anticipating the changing needs of leisure operators.
“We already sold hand sanitiser as an everyday item and saw sales rocket as the coronavirus situation began to develop, which gave us confidence to switch focus to PPE very early,” he said. “It was a big risk as we knew cashflow from our regular business channels was going to be under extreme pressure but it was an equally big risk to sit tight and do nothing.”
The risk has paid off. Beverley confirmed that the switch towards viral mitigation had allowed the firm to “continue trading at a better than expected level,” and that it had “helped compensate for some of the areas in which business has stalled.”
In terms of stock capacity meanwhile, PMS warehouses never entirely closed even at the height of the pandemic, and are now back to full operational strength. And whilst 90 per cent of its white collar workers remain working from home (in accordance with government mandate), this month saw the company welcome back clients to its showrooms in both Essex and Manchester. Simultaneously, PMS sales reps – decked out with PPE – have resumed making off-site appointments with customers.
“We are helping our leisure industry customers be ready for re-opening by having stock on hand at the right time and being prepared to turn orders around in short time,” Beverley surmised.
And that condensed time-frame is exactly what arcade operators are facing at present, with Tuesday’s announcement from the prime minister as to their imminent re-opening giving them just two weeks to make ready.
“The July 4 confirmation is extremely welcome news for everyone in the trade but it leaves a very short time to prepare,” remarked Beverley. “In the immediate short term businesses will urgently need to get prepared with the right PPE measures for reopening in adequate quantities to get them through the summer, keep their staff and customers safe and reassured that their safety is an important consideration, and the recent announcement has rapidly escalated the urgency of this.”
“Fortunately we are in a position to deliver stock immediately,” he said, before adding that it was also incumbent on operators to “move extremely quickly.”
Q&A – STEVE BEVERLEY ON LOCKDOWN AND RE-OPENING AT PMS
CS: Knowing what we do about the criteria for businesses to re-open, what changes are you concerned about?
SB: The AGC turnaround has undermined confidence, but the PM’s announcement this week couldn’t have been clearer that arcades are back in business from July 4. I hope there are no more nasty surprises and am confident that the excellent lobbying work by BACTA and its members over the AGC turnaround will prevent a repeat of this.
CS: With people getting ready to return, what new innovations and products are you planning on launching in the coming months?
SB: Our immediate focus still remains on PPE and ensuring our customers have all the essentials in place in order to operate safely and satisfy health and safety requirements. Outside of this we launched some fantastic new products this year which haven’t had any exposure as everybody has been shut down. We’ve also got a new range of Rainbow themed “Thank You” plush product on its way for which we will make charitable donations to NHS Charities for every unit sold. We’re taking good pre-orders on these and would expect them to be popular crane items when the industry reopens.
CS: There’s so much talk about “the new normal.” What will the new normal be for you and your business going forward?
SB: We’ve had to adjust our way of doing business and are doing more on the phone, more video calls and more marketing communication than before. There’s no substitute for visiting the customer with samples in your hand but not everyone will be comfortable working like that right now so for the time being we need to be versatile, listen to our customers and find the way that works best for each of them individually. We hope that as we exit lockdown we can take a few lessons from this and combine the best of the old way of working with some of the new ways.
CS: In terms of PPE, what have been your best selling items and how do you see the leisure industry adopting PPE measures?
SB: Since the announcement that face covering must be worn on all public transport there has been a huge surge in sales of fashion masks. We’ve also found the non-medical grade three-ply disposable mask is a great option for businesses who want to offer their customers reassurance and protection as these are affordable enough to hand out to customers on the premises whereas medical grade Type IIR is more suitable for staff. We have imported a limited quantity of hands free hand sanitizer dispensers which have been popular as businesses prepare for reopening, the last available stock will arrive at the beginning of July and I would think these are a must have for high contact areas within arcades for both staff and customers.
CS: What have been your highs and lows of lockdown?
SB: The start of lockdown was definitely a low point, supermarket shelves were empty and it felt like the world was ending, so much uncertainty and no idea how this was going to pan out and I was pretty devastated when the European Championships were cancelled. The biggest high was when the PPE orders started rolling in: it was a big relief to know we’d made the right call. Outside of the business it was a time to reflect and appreciate the smaller things. I normally spend a lot of time working away from home and this has been a unique chance to spend more time with my family. The weather has been incredible: it’s been so frustrating knowing what a good time the coastal resorts would have had this year but at the same time the beautiful weather has been a godsend and made lockdown easier for everyone to deal with. It was uplifting how people got behind the NHS.