Church firms wrestle to remain afloat

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Church-oriented companies have spoken of adapting to the challenges of the corona virus. Most say they are "optimistic" about the future; But a well-known company, Mander Organs, went into liquidation.

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Retail sales rose 13.9 percent in June over June, the National Statistics Office reported. However, consumer confidence remains weak, despite companies hoping to return to pre-pandemic levels. A recession is still expected in the UK as GDP growth slowed by 2.2 percent between January and March.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) criticized plans announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week to introduce an online sales tax to protect stores from competition. The BRC said it would raise prices for consumers.

Companies like Wippell & Co., which offer office and graduation apparel, struggled to recover after sales fell 90 percent in March from the period. The director, Robin Richardson, said niche companies were having difficulty benefiting from the surge in consumer confidence: “We tried to diversify but we are a niche market. Retailers can only pick up if a product is bought by the public – but we don't sell it to the general public. We can only sell a spiritual shirt to clergymen. Until the churches reopen, it is difficult to get things under control.

“We are the largest manufacturer of office robes in the country. Two thirds of our business comes from university degrees, one third from the church. There are currently no deals or deliveries to the Lambeth Conference, Church of Scotland General Assembly, or orders to theological colleges in the United States. Between March and June, only one week's work was created on our website. We have 50 employees and the government vacation program helped, but we couldn't really adapt. The only way to diversify in the future is to provide other types of special clothing. "

He continued: “You have to be positive. The past few days have been pretty good for business, but we can only try to hold out with government support. "

Priory Automotive, which sells cars to members of the clergy, reopened in June after two months of closure. The director of the company, Steve Frost, said this week: “With two months without sales, everything was difficult financially, especially since we are not working on high margins with our sales. But we cut our cloth accordingly and got through to our reopening in June.

“As it is a fairly small company, everyone has continued and we have only worked for security controls. Priory has always offered free nationwide delivery, and this was actually a bonus as it wasn't too difficult for everyone involved to make it contactless now. We find that sales are where they should be month after month, but it's understandable in these difficult times. "

Anne Wray's independent financial advisor, who provides independent financial advice to clergymen, has also adjusted. The company's founder, Anne Wray, said: “We have kept business as usual as much as possible, but we realized early on that we needed to be prepared for all of us to work remotely.

“We are now working far more efficiently than ever and regularly use Zoom for our weekly and ad hoc employee meetings. We were able to convince our customers that this new IT was not that difficult at all. Travel was no longer necessary and we are aware of the environmental benefits. Our customer portal has been in operation since last year and enables us to provide our customers with information safely and quickly without the need for "wet" signatures. "

Vanpoulle's church team sales manager Lisa-Jane Hurst said the government's vacation program in the past four months has been "the salvation" for the company.

"In the past few weeks, our employees have slowly returned to the factory and orders, although not of the same capacity, have continued to flow into the business," she said.

“We remain optimistic and hope that once the churches are fully open, orders will rise to a sustainable level to avoid the need for layoffs. So far, we've been able to work with limited staff and keep the business going. However, if localized locks become a normal routine, the situation can change. "

Office clothing suppliers Watts & Co. said the company “has weathered the current crisis with the same resilience and adaptability it experienced in two world wars.

“Despite the temporary closure of our Westminster showroom and the inevitable decline in sales, the loyalty of our customers has enabled our team to continue processing orders from home.

"We also took the opportunity to plan new ranges and explore new marketing channels. With a combination of careful management and employee flexibility, we are confident that we can continue to serve our Church in the months and years ahead. "

The charity Hymns Ancient & Modern, which is owned by the Church Times, also runs the Church House Bookshop. Hymns A & M's publishing director Christine Smith said late last week: “The Church House bookshop was closed in March and reopened in June with reduced hours. Customers are slowly returning as public confidence remains fragile, although mail order and web sales are still busy. To promote trade, we introduced free postage and packaging for all online orders in the UK and have been doing this for over three months.

"We regularly offered cheaper special offers, such as: B. a "Book of the Week" and an "Author of the Week", as well as regular thematic promotions with titles that not only come from our own lists, but also from the publishers that we distribute from the warehouse or from the warehouse in the warehouse Shop. Although all physical events were canceled, we were active in online events and maintained partnerships with HeartEdge, The Tablet and Greenbelt, among others.

“Our warehouse has remained open throughout, although fewer teams work alternately to maintain strict social distance. The overwhelming response to our summer sales even meant that we had to suspend it for a few days so that the warehouse teams could catch up on the sheer volume of orders. "

London-based organ builder Mander Organs, whose instruments include those in the St. Paul, Chelmsford, and Rochester cathedrals, Westminster Abbey, and Royal Albert Hall, announced last week that the business was closed.

A statement on the website and on the Facebook page said: "Mander Organs Ltd deeply regrets to announce that due to cash flow difficulties and the inability to secure adequate work, the company will close trading on Monday July 27, 2020.

“The management and staff want to thank our customers and friends for the loyalty and support they have provided over the years, especially in the past difficult months. Our affairs have been placed in the hands of an independent insolvency administrator, Insolve Plus Limited, to whom all inquiries should be directed. "

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