Inter-Line emerging stronger from a year like no other
- Credit: Archant
Not one business across the entire globe has escaped the impact of Covid-19, every organisation has been forced to adapt, innovate and survive.
Inter-Line Building Supplies took their first steps on this journey into the unknown by closing for a period of evaluation when the pandemic initially took hold in March 2020.
Gradually, the branches in Torquay, Paignton, Brixham, Totnes and Exeter were able to open with strict measures in place, as Inter-Line sought to find a pathway through this unprecedented crisis.
“After a lot of soul-searching, we closed the business for three weeks, just to give us a chance to take stock and understand the legislation surrounding Covid,” said Neil Robinson, Director of Finance at Inter-Line Building Supplies.
“We had to work out how we could trade in a safe manner to protect our employees and our customers. We reopened after Easter and took it one step at a time across the five branches, starting with the opening of the Torquay branch.
“We initially opened for deliveries, then moved on to Click & Collect and we provided areas outside the main gates to service customers. Gradually, one branch a week, we opened up the business, finally with Brixham opening in July.”
Above all else, it was the enthusiasm and professionalism of the staff at Inter-Line that ensured a smooth process for customers, providing a platform for the organisation to survive and thrive.
“Our staff literally ran themselves ragged and we kept those who were clinically vulnerable out of the business,” added Robinson. “We encouraged the rest to return, which was obviously important for the business, but also for the mental fortitude of our staff.
“Once they came back and saw how we were operating, they were comfortable with what we were doing. Eventually, we allowed customers on to the premises and our phones were ringing off the hook, so we urged people to visit our website and social media for guidance.
“The key factor in winning the recent digital award was our ability to show live stock figures on the website, showing where products were and where people could collect.
“The most valuable asset we have at Inter-Line are the staff and they really did work their fingers to the bone. We provided them with cream teas, beer and goodies just to keep morale high in a difficult situation.
“We are a people-business, we deal with people and the staff definitely enjoyed the interaction during lockdown.”
In order for Inter-Line to emerge from the crisis in a position of strength, tough decisions were taken in prioritising supplies for tradespeople carrying out essential work across the community.
They also moved to support local charities with a superb Christmas initiative that raised thousands of pounds for organisations that had lost all of their normal income streams.
“What brought it home to me was our customers saying that they simply couldn’t work without our business being open,” said Neil. “People wanted to work and contractors still had commitments to uphold.
“There were massive supply issues throughout the industry, so we gave priority to our trade customers above DIY, as their work was essential.
“As a business, we have probably come out even stronger than before the pandemic. We are in a very good place and the relationships we have with our customers are better than ever, mainly because of the way we conducted ourselves through the crisis.
“We allowed people to keep trading and the charity work we did to support organisations in need over Christmas was very important.
“It really struck us that charities were suffering terribly, their funds had been decimated, so it made sense for us to support their needs in the best way possible. The Christmas charity calendar raised funds and awareness in a difficult time.”
It is a credit to the team at Inter-Line for their dedication and flexibility in a time that none of us will ever forget.