Getting on with it

Character, in great and little things, means carrying through what you feel able to do.

As someone who has spent all her working life in the media, it pains me to say this but sometimes, it’s best to ignore what you read and just get on with life.

In previous recessions and tough times, we would hear accusations – not always unfounded either – that the media was “talking he economy down”. It’ even worse now that we have unleashed the beast that is social media. I spent four days in a campsite with no WIFI, electric charge points or mobile signal and I downloaded no newspapers, saw no Facebook updates and there were no Twitter postings to wind me up. I couldn’t even listen to the news in the car because I have teenagers and wanting the radio rather than Spotify marks me out to be a haggard old dinosaur. It was bliss.

Back to reality though and the papers are full of civil servants getting the boot, accusations of scape-goating, government U-turns on a sixpence, quarantining holiday-makers, R-rates inching up and don’t even get me started on what’s happening across the Atlantic.

So instead, I’m gong to focus on the small print because it’s there that things are looking brighter. Grafton’s half-year report shows a 19% drop in revenue, but there’s a strong recovery in RMI performance, Travis Perkins “has continued to recover well with good demand from RMI and infrastructure markets”, independents such as Markovitz, CRS and South Coast Building Supplies, are continuing to expand and grab opportunities, buying groups are adding new members, merchants like MKM and Benchmark are adding new branches and planning more.

Quietly, the merchanting industry and their suppliers are getting on with things. Yes, there have been job losses, restructurings and redundancies. There may be more to come when the furlough scheme ends and companies have to decide how they are going to operate in the ‘new normal’, a phrase that has already become so cliched it’s irritating.

Some things will never be the same again. We will think hard about which face to face meetings we really need to attend, and which can better be conducted via technology. Zoom is great for a lot of things but in my job, it’s no substitute for wandering round a builder’s merchants branch with the MD to find out what makes that particular operation tick. I can’t wait to be able to get back out there again. Although the thought of having to travel on the trains to get there – to, through and from London – wearing a facemask isn’t particularly appealing, I have to admit.

The news coming out of the two surveys that Travis Perkins and Jewson released last week also show that their customers are getting on with things. The domestic RMI sector is trundling on, building refurbishing and maintaining properties, the fact that housing transactions are bouncing bac will only boost that.

We are no where near out of the woods yet but we are, it seems, on a path out of the woods, rather than still crashing through the undergrowth, trying to avoid the nettles, the brambles, the rabbit holes and the snakes. Most of whom seem to be in Westminster.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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