Rental company Hire It MD Richard Fraser says businesses lost nearly a month of trading owing to the riots, not only from the actual shutdown but also the uncertainty thereafter, which caused a slow return to trading that was already dampened by the pandemic.
“However, looking forward, we must remain positive and hope that more normal economic conditions will return, and that some held-back demand will be released. We must focus on what we can control, maintain our focus on the customer and deliver excellent service.”
The global shipping disruption because of Covid-19 also affected companies. The scope of products and components that have been unavailable has been wide-reaching, consequently impacting on sales, hire and repairs businesses, as certain repairs required out-of-stock components.
There has also been a significant increase in transport costs, which, in turn, impacts on pricing.
“The pandemic has really shown us and the rest of the world how reliant we have become on China, and what a risk this poses to continuity,” Fraser explains.
To secure its future, Hire It decided in mid-2021 to order a lot of stock for its most common lines in the Kwagga Construction Equipment range to ensure supply for customers.
This precautionary action resulted in the company now being able to supply new stock, components and spare parts to customers for this year.
Further, Hire It imports and assembles its in-house range of small-plant equipment. Honda engines are used for its machines, owing to the “reliability and backup of automobiles, motorcycles and power equipment manufacturer Honda South Africa”, which Hire It views as a “strategic and long-term partner”.
The company has also developed a mid-range construction equipment product range in terms of price, but which is similar to top of the range equipment in terms of reliability and effectiveness.
In addition to the Kwagga range, Hire It is also an agent for power product and power tools brands such as Honda, Yamaha, Hoffman, Husqvarna, Bosch, Makita and AKSA Power Generation.
Apart from the company’s numerous sales channels, it is also launching its own online sales platform, with third-party online marketplaces, as well as online and physical store drop-shipment suppliers already at its disposal.
Through a strategic partnership with a logistics supplier, Hire It has been supplying equipment nationwide for a number of years.
However, an online store – spurred on by the accelerated acceptance of online shopping, owing to the pandemic – has always been a strategic goal of the company.
Fraser notes that selling construction and industrial products online presents several challenges that the company is keen to take on.
Construction and industrial equipment is not ideally suited to online buying, mainly because of health and safety, as well as expertise, concerns.
Expertise, such as using the correct tool for a task, is easier to obtain when traditional sales agents – who understand customer requirements and match these with the correct machine – are part of the company’s service offering, which is a contributing factor to its loyal customer base.
Certain specialised products will always require consultation with a customer; however, a sufficient product range can be categorised into a more standardised application, with customers making the correct choice, Fraser notes.
Customers can get in touch with sales agents by voice call, online chat or email.
Hire It hopes to reach customers in remote areas that cannot get quality construction products locally through the online store and using trusted payment gateways.
“The way the world is doing business is constantly changing and evolving, and the pandemic has accelerated this change even further. “If we can use our product knowledge and expertise to bridge the gap between ourselves and the customer, and make the purchasing experience as easy as possible, I believe we will be keeping our business up to date and relevant,” Fraser concludes.