Margaret Sturt, Managing Director, Bespoke Bodies
R&S: What challenges have you
faced in recent months?
Margaret Sturt: The availability of chassis and
parts has been a problem for us throughout the crisis.
Another issue is that, as with removals, working in a
manufacturing business poses proximity problems,
particularly if an employee needs a colleague to hold
a part to fix something or when an item requires
a two-man lift and it’s impractical to use lifting
equipment. We’ve had to risk assess all kinds of
scenarios to ensure a safe return to work.
This is on top of the financial concerns we
experienced towards the start of the lockdown, such
as worries about whether our customers would survive
the shutdown and the possibility of them cancelling
future orders. The banks also proved difficult to
Rees Jones, Anchor Removals’ in-house fogger
September 2020 Removals & Storage 15
deal with, and on top of that our bank relationship
manager contracted Covid-19. It wasn’t until we
involved our local MP that things improved and we
secured a small business grant from the council.
Since then, our business has reopened gradually as
orders come in, and we’re acclimatising ourselves to
the new way of working.
R&S: Do you plan any investments
or business continuity measures?
MS: We’ve been asking ourselves a lot of difficult
questions about what life looks like post-Covid-19 for
a manufacturing company building a lot of removals
vehicles. Many people under lockdown have realised
the value of a garden and open countryside, and if this
trend continues as more and more people move out
of the city and work from home the removals industry
will have plenty of work in the future and may
need more trucks. As local authorities develop more
car-free areas to improve public health, the current
trend towards smaller vehicles such as 3.5 tonne
trucks to serve these areas will increase. We need to
consider whether amenities such as sleeping pods are
now a thing of the past because of social distancing
requirements, and if Perspex separators and washing
facilities will need to be fitted into cabs. Or are these
all just short-term requirements? We certainly have
interesting times ahead.
For more information, visit
Chris Smallwood, Managing Director, Anchor Removals
R&S: How have you been adjusting to the ‘new normal’?
Chris Smallwood: It’s been a relatively smooth process. We’ve communicated
well with all our team and continue to monitor, review and adjust our safety
processes where appropriate. We’ve also upgraded the security of our premises,
including our alarm systems, high-grade CCTV and new security fencing to the
rear of the site.
R&S: What’s the current situation with staff?
CS: Having our administrative staff work from home has been extremely effective
both in terms of cost and best practice, and they’ll continue to do so for the near
future because of limited space in the office. We took a calculated financial risk to
bring back our operational teams in mid-May; this encouraged us to work hard
to fill the diary and we have experienced moderate-to-good success in this. I don’t
have any concerns around the closing of the furlough scheme in October from
the point of view of a removals business. However, I think the scheme needs to be
retained for the hospitality sector and other industries that have been hit hard by
the pandemic to ensure our economy doesn’t completely collapse.
R&S: What about your fleet?
CS: Being able to defer MOTs has been tremendously helpful in one sense but
challenging in another. Issues remain around trying to book an MOT because of
the large backlog, but we have worked well with our maintenance providers to
manage this problem. We’ve also tried to avoid hire purchase payment holidays
because in our view this is just storing up debt for a period that may be worse
than the one we’re currently in – i.e., January to March 2020, post a potential
no-deal departure from the EU! Thankfully, the Greater Manchester clean air
zone has been put back to 2022 (see page 10), which gives us a little more time to
upgrade our fleet.
R&S: How are you getting on with PPE?
CS: We don’t use masks – we offered them to our teams but they refused them.
However, we do provide plenty of hand sanitiser, towels, soap and so on, and we
also ask customers to carry out certain tasks before we enter the property, such
as cleaning. We’re now offering fogging and deep cleaning services ourselves to
sanitise customers’ property pre- and post-move.
R&S: Looking back, do you think the industry could
have done anything differently to address Covid-19?
CS: Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and there are things we can learn from.
Personally, I would have stayed open for four more days at the end of March.
I am still scarred by the massive impact that our closure had on some of our
For more information, visit www.anchorremovals.co.uk