On 4th April 2020 all HAI members were sent the the following correspondence from the HAI Board (Executive Committee), regarding the Covid-19 pandemic and the hardware sector’s response:
As you are all aware the government announced increased measures and further restrictions to trading on Friday 27th of March. The guidelines were put in place to safeguard public health and save lives and as an industry we wholeheartedly support all government efforts to suppress and reduce the effect COVID 19 is having on how we live our lives and the way we operate business.
I understand our members and others in the sector consist of varying types of businesses including Builders Merchants, Hardware Shops, Paint & Décor, Plumbing & Heating and Agri Stores, Suppliers and Manufacturers. There are clearly some differences to certain guidelines for very real and obvious reasons, such as Agri who must open for Farm Feed and Animal Health Products.
Hardware Association Ireland is a representative body. Our focus is to represent the industry and to provide services that enable and facilitate good business. We have never in the past advised any member whatsoever on how they should sell their product. That is not our role. You are all far more qualified than HAI to do so. While you make that decision it is our role to share with you the general consensus within the membership and in the marketplace.
The government guidelines are “grey” in parts, lacking clarity, and for those that wish to do so it is open to be interpreted in a number of ways. Therefore the main focus in deciding how to operate has come down to a moral obligation of asking the question “What is the right thing to do in this situation where people’s lives are at risk?” It has been reassuring to see that most throughout the industry did not wait to be told what they can or can’t do, nor did they continue on as normal until told otherwise. The vast majority and overriding consensus was to make the socially responsible decision to close their premises and trade counter with no collection allowed and only operate a delivery service in an emergency situation or delivery of essential products to a home, business or other location. In the domestic context “essential” meaning products that are essential in order for people to continue to remain living in their home. Therefore someone running out of gas or a pipe bursting is essential to them physically being able to remain living in the house. These cases are easy to classify as Essential and while others are a little greyer, there is an expectation that members should be relied on or are morally obligated to make the correct decision on whether to supply or not. People have been instructed to remain in their homes because of risk to health and lives, why should a delivery driver be asked to take the risk unless it is an emergency or essential? No one wants to be held morally responsible for the spread of this virus, nor the possible legal implications for them and their business.
HAI have also seen the social media messages by some claiming to be in a position to deliver non-essential product. They are in the absolute minority and the level of negative feedback they are receiving from within the industry and general public is exceptionally worrying for them. It may damage them even further in future. Having spoken to merchants, buying groups and suppliers/manufacturers, there has been a serious backlash with a very dangerous negative effect that could be very hard to shake off if a member is seen to be stretching the limits of the guidelines. Additionally most suppliers are closed and in many cases have made the decision to completely shut down their plant and will not supply unless it is accompanied by a letter from the HSE. So please be aware of the backlash of social media coupled with increased Garda searches of vehicles and premises.
Continuing to operate outside of emergency and essential will extend the date in which we all get back to work. Everyone is watching and the more negativity the industry gets the longer we will remain closed. This is the reality of the situation.
These are extremely difficult times, but HAI urges all members and non-members to operate in the spirit of what is the right thing to do, the best interests of people’s physical health, and in order to play your part in containing the spread and saving lives.
This crisis will pass.
And when it does pass:
And when it does pass – HAI and our members will be a prime industry to jumpstart our economy and drive its resurgence. We have an action plan in place to help deliver this.
On behalf of the board:
If you have any queries please contact Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org.