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March 2020

Posted in: Effects of the Coronavirus on a small business


7 months ago 1171 Views No comments

The bedlam carries on at Contact Left today, although as I have mentioned on previous posts peoples buying habits have changed, the fact is they are still buying, we can not print the volume of air rifle targets that people want and although we hold good stocks we are now printing them to order. The printing arm at Contact Left is in 2 parts with a separate company owned by Sean who is the Manager at Contact Left and although he is solely in charge of the day today running of Contact Left he works mornings and evenings on SG Print and Design work. At 21 (Or 22) he has the stamina to do both. On a serious note if anyone needs any printing let him know he does all sorts from banners to business cards and has some really good contracts with restaurants and has done a lot of work for military units due to the cross over from Contact Left.

Back to the Bedlam of today, after the Police paid for the MoD order that was put in yesterday the MoD are on our backs again needing to know timings for when the items will arrive, needing to know whether they will need fork lift trucks to unload or whether the company delivering them will have them, It’s a bit new this to me, although civilian street tends to work quicker than what I remember while in the military it definatly doesn’t have the tenacity the MoD is applying here. I sent a screen shot at 1630hrs with details of the consignment but didn’t follow it with a phone call and by the time the MoD planner called me this evening we were unable to get in touch with the company delivering so not exactly sure what time it will be delivered tomorrow. It’s a school boy error on Contact Lefts behalf but one we will learn from.

I am not privy to any information at the moment but the way it looks is the MoD are deploying to different parts of the country, I would imagine to help with logistical tasks etc and I think we must have done an alright job so far as this afternoon we received another call from a different planner in a different area wanting the same product, nothing firm on this however when I was on the phone I mentioned we are selling the hand sanitiser and they ordered 2000 bottles straight away.

On the manufacturing side, the slings that we have been making for the Police are just about finished, I had a bit of a row with the head of manufacturing as I was sure I was right about a type of material, as normal I was wrong but sorted now. The manufacturing side is the safest area we have as right now people want UK manufactured products but with minimal staff it’s a nightmare for them to complete all tasks and with us short staffed elsewhere we cant move anyone in to help. So far we have about 5 outstanding Police products to make and we are still getting orders through from shops to stock the UKOM products.

The last day of the month is always good for sales and today was no different but I just cant help thinking this has got to stop, the money wont be there for people to spend to soon, it’s a false economy, I don’t believe we evolving quick enough and we cant until we get staff back that can help us, its not the type of job that you can just bring anyone in and they can do it, it takes months to learn how we operate and even now the lady who works from home is furloughed because it’s an impossibility to do the job while looking after a child, even with us supplying the Police and MoD the nursery the child attends has closed. So its just get on and cope with COVID-19 the best and safest way we can.

Thanks for reading David

Posted in: Effects of the Coronavirus on a small business


7 months ago 1081 Views No comments

So today was like the stock exchange (Not that I have ever been there) but it was calls from the Ministry of Defence Planners then the Military Liaison Officers were on our backs about whether we could supply the goods, after getting warehouses open and sorting the order the next was getting it paid for it, luckily we didn’t have to reply on the Military to pay, the Police picked up the tab on this one. One thing I can say is that over the past few weeks we have been dealing with multinational companies and today the MoD although we havnt had any game changing orders the interaction with these organisations has been great and fills small companies like ours with confidence.

The general work at Contact Left is still is a manner of disarray with over half the work force off now (thank fully no coronavirus), boxes and kit is moved round while we liaise with suppliers about who is and isn’t open and when they can dispatch. The military guys that are deploying around the country at the moment are buying all sorts of basic items from boot laces to bush hats and lots of rank slides and insignia.

Overall turnover is staying fairly on a par with previous years but the average selling price of an item is lower. Everyone at Contact Left are managing the work well and its still a case of evolve, evolve, evolve. We need to keep changing and adjusting as the world around us does.

Thanks very much for reading David

Posted in: Effects of the Coronavirus on a small business


7 months ago 1090 Views No comments

It seems like seconds ago that I was writing about the end of our busiest ever week on Friday and even though busiest it didn’t mean profitable as such but the wages were paid.

The unit opened at 0800hrs today for selecting the 2 days’ worth of orders and packing it all up, I spoke with a couple of companies that deal with military gear that may be able to help with the orders that are coming in that we don’t usually deal with

The main problem now at Contact Left is actually finding anything, last week and the week before we panic bought everything we could so the whole place is covered in boxes and it’s a struggle to find what we need. We have a 6000 square foot unit, half is supposed to be retail space for footfall customers but we never get many anyway and it’s just piled high with boxes and some rolls of fabric I bought a while ago.

If I was to plan for this week I would say that we will sort out all the boxes of stuff work on the stock management software, try and get listed some of the stuff that is not visible online.

We still want your ideas on any items that you think we should stock or make, the face masks are doing okay but due to half the staff being off there isn’t really anyone to reroll to make them so although they are listed online and selling we would struggle if we were to sell hundreds in a day. I still have one item that we have made from an idea that a reader of the blog has put forward we just need to fine tune this and advertise. Initially I thought on starting the blog sales would completely dry up as people would all be at home and not buying and we would struggle to keep staff employed, but although sales have slowed they haven’t completely dried up and staff are off anyway due to various reasons, thankfully no confirmed coronavirus cases.

I really don’t know what this week will bring to Contact Left but I will be surprised if its not interesting.

Take Care and Stay Safe David

Posted in: Effects of the Coronavirus on a small business


7 months ago 1122 Views No comments

After yesterday’s drunken blog I thought the today especially with the unit closed for selecting would be quieter however first thing this morning I am phoned by an MoD planner reference an item they would never buy from me normally but due to shops and others closing they need us to supply, I won’t say what the item is as to avoid everyone speculating on why the Ministry of Defence doesn’t have enough of them. Like everyone they depend on supply chains and no one ever saw this coming and definatly didn’t see everyone shutting down in a state of emergency. As long as we can get them on Monday morning the MoD will pay £24 instead of the standard RRP of £39.99, we are making a margin on these items but hopefully not fleecing them, COVID-19 aside, from a business point of view we want them to come back for more and more stuff. Its not about the quick buck, if Contact Left survives this COVID-19 if it wants to make the big money its need to be big orders at low margins.

Another reader of the blog has put a contact our way and they have just ordered 300 bottles of the 500ml hand sanitiser and may want to put a much order in, on Monday. I have never been that great at marketing but the blog is really paying off and a lot of customers are being referred to us by readers. Thanks for everyone who text me last night after I drunkenly put my phone number on.

So over the past 12 days peoples buying habits have changed, items like Air Rifle Pellets and Targets have grown massively along with water carriers, shemaghs. Also we are selling items that we have never normally sold online and this is due to other sellers that have temporarily closed their online businesses. What we expected to happen 2 weeks ago is happening a lot of items that were popular sellers have stopped completely, I won’t mention the brands as we sell a lot of niche products from small manufacturers and I don’t want to discredit those brands here. My belief is when this is all over those products will continue to sell again but the military right now has changed its role so the average military person isn’t going on promotion courses or exercises so they don’t need certain items like they used to. They do however need other items.

Over the next 3 to 4 weeks what will happen is online shops will start discounting more and more, take advantage of this everyone as the shops big and small need you to buy this stuff. Small businesses like ours have loads of stock that when things go slow we can offload you are not taking advantage we wouldn’t be selling it if we didn’t need the money. Certain brands that haven’t sold well when the going is good will be offloaded or maybe just certain items from that brand. It will stop becoming about profit margins and more about keeping jobs and paying the rent.

Thanks everyone for reading and share the life out of this, hope you all have a pleasant evening. Cheers David

Posted in: Effects of the Coronavirus on a small business


7 months ago 1431 Views 2 comments

This is the first blog I will write under the influence of alcohol, I started drinking about 2 hours ago, I can thank Roger Waters for the spirits he brings us every year it’s like petrol but mixed with a bit of cola and ice its okay, and I have just come off a Face time beer with Stefan from Fidlock where we put the worlds to rights and as always Fidlock are offering us any help they can with our struggles with the problems our business is facing due to coronavirus. This morning I am speaking with AustriAlpin about buckles, yesterday Mike from combatsystems.cz is messaging me offering support. What is truly amazing is that our European brothers and sisters are offering so much help. I have always ensured the Contact Left is neutral in regards to political opinion for many reasons, first being that I understand completely peoples differing views, and a retailor is to serve the customers not sway how they vote and secondly because I didn’t think it would help sales giving any opinion but right at this very minute I think we need to be closer to Europe than we have ever been.

To sum this week up, due to a technicality we have not got the Half a million pound order we thought we may get, massive shout out to Sean for all the hard work he put into getting in the running for it and the gentleman who put us forward for it, it was directly from writing this blog that we had the opportunity to put in for it. We have manufactured a massive amount of kit for the Police and got to give a shout out to Jen for that (Don’t worry loads more orders I haven’t told you about yet)

This has by far been our busiest ever week, not in turnover but in adjusting to what is happening with the world we have never needed to borrow a penny before and never had an overdraft so I have never put any contingency plans in place but trying to do this on the hop is not easy, the companies we do have credit with are reading this blog and offering us more, currently we are okay and today have paid all the wages for this month and I am 99% sure we will be able to do the same next month.

Today we found out one of our key suppliers Highlander Outdoor are continuing to operate which is fantastic as everyone who needs water carriers, camp beds, bags etc this is where they are coming from. They supply various items that are supplied through us on contract to UK Special Forces.

As we see the UK death toll in the UK moving towards 200 a day its really frightening as a business, I am confident that all Contact Left staff are practicing social distancing outside the work place and we have plenty of hand sanitiser and facemasks on site for everyone, it is still likely that if one person catches it we all will but we have increased measures to prevent this happening and they will further increase next week.

I have to stop writing this now as its difficult to focus on the letters on the screen due to the increased alcohol consumption, for anyone that is sat bored at home, my phone number is 07595895522, I am going to have a bite to eat now and I think every Friday night going forward everyone should have a Skype/face time beer.

In the last 5 days we have changed dramatically and its now impossible to go back to what we were, Contact Left has been forced into changes and has evolved into something far stronger than it was 2 weeks ago

Take Care, Stay Safe David (I am off to get smashed)

Posted in: Effects of the Coronavirus on a small business


7 months ago 954 Views No comments

Would have gibbed todays blog off but if I don’t do one day I probably wouldn’t have continued and although the point of this was to drive traffic to Contact Left now it’s a way for me to keep track of what’s actually going on and hopefully give an insight to anyone that wonders what it’s like to not know whether you are actually going to be running your business with 10 or 3 people tomorrow, or if it will be running at all.

First thing is we could close right now and put everyone on furlough and hope the government hold their end of the bargain and pay 80% wages of the staff, but really how long will they pay that for? It’s not an option. Right now the supply chain across the UK is crumbling; we are getting to the point now where it will be quicker to buy essential items from China as no one in the UK is still open. Our manufacturing arm UK Outdoor Manufacturing (UKOM) are proud to make everything 100% in the UK, but the demand far outstrips capacity, the constant worry across the UK more so than ever is that we are unable now to manufacture so many items here. Every day I get emails from Chinese companies offering support to the COVID-19 crisis in the UK and offering to sell me face masks.

We currently have 6 members of staff either self-isolating, flu or on childcare duties, I am not complaining they are off as its all for valid reasons but I was worried 10 days ago about firing staff and how to reroll them, now Contact Left only has a 50% workforce with only a small drop in orders and plenty of work to do. In reality if we are going to provide a service to the military guys and gals that buy from us and complete the Police purchase orders we need to keep the retail side going from a mail order point of view. But we do need to be more efficient and the weird thing about all of this is when we come out at the other side, we will be a stronger more productive company.

On a positive note we got 3000 bottles of 50ml hand sanitizer in today and a few of the 250ml so those of you that have ordered these sizes, its been dispatched. I had over ordered this because this was my opportunity to sell a load on EBAY at £20 a bottle and go into hibernation with Disney+, but I made the fatal error of offering it to the Police, they bought 2000 straight away at £1.85 and I sold 420 bottles to the local minimart round the corner, previously they were both paying over £3 a bottle. We still have a few left in both 250ml and 50ml on the website but I am leaving the 3 week turnaround on there so if there is a mad rush people will understand.

We are struggling with processing some trade requests still, but with us panic buying everything from water jerry cans to fabrics this week it’s been really hectic. We have had to disable so many products a lot of time has been taken up stopping us being productive. I know we are still to quote 1 Police Force on shooters belts (If your reading this it will be done tomorrow) and another I have sent the wrong inner belt sample to, again I will sort this. But now is the time that we will really start to need everyone’s help, come next week we expect the sales to have fallen dramatically so if you know someone with a shop or a business tell them to get in touch to buy our super strength hand sanitizer. Those of you that havnt got face masks check out the reusable pocket ones on our website.

Thanks for reading, stay safe, social distance, share the life out of this

Posted in: Effects of the Coronavirus on a small business


7 months ago 1018 Views No comments

Will keep this really short, if you want to know how today went at Contact Left? Pretty much the same as yesterday.

The readers of this blog are fantastic with all the messages etc and yesterday Phillip who is serving in the UK Military and manufactures a range of military and law enforcement products offered to make some of the slings that we have on order from the Police, he said he would do it for free just so we can get them out quickly to them. His company is Tactical Wolf, give them a follow on Facebook. Fidlock a German company contacted to ask if we need help with anything. I get similar messages and offers from loads of people far too many to mention or this would become an advertising blog, I thank you all.

We managed to get the Police Baton round vests posted today and gave the Police who visited some free face masks and hand sanitizer. I also spoke in detail with members of a couple of Police forces about the breakdown in the supply chain at the moment with so many businesses that don’t deem themselves essential and are not working. I find it extremely disheartening to see nurseries closing that take kids from essential workers and classing this as to protect their workers. I do understand protecting the workers but the parents of those children can’t do their job now and I wonder if some of the nurseries are doing this based on profitability on having so few kids in.

Nothing to do with Contact Left but while you are reading got to give a massive shout out to all the people who have volunteered today to help the NHS and other areas that are in essential need at this time.

In coming years the question will be asked. “What did you do during COVID-19?”

Thanks for reading and keep sharing and stay safe

PS My wife reckons the long blogs are boring however based on who read yesterdays, the long ones get 10 times more reads.

Posted in: Effects of the Coronavirus on a small business


7 months ago 1146 Views No comments

Lock down, its heart breaking really, we will stay open in a manner and today have finished Police Baton Round vests that they desperately need. These vests are manufactured on our premises and we have 5 other orders to be manufactured just for the Police including 150 slings that we are part way through (If you are reading this)

It would be great to just shut up completely now for 3 weeks, pay the staff claim 80% back off the government and away we go again but who is going to fulfill the orders for the Police, I have invested just about every penny in the hand sanitiser that will arrive next week and there are shops and individuals that are desperate for it, I received an email today from a lady who’s autistic child gets anxious when he runs out of hand gel. I first bought all the hand sanitiser to keep the company going now I have created something that we have to fulfill whether it would be financially viable to continue or not.

With the lock down now in its first phase it’s not profitable to be open as a retail outlet and the online orders will help but to what degree I don’t know as most of the suppliers have shut, several have said that if we receive Public Service orders that they supply they will open just to get those orders out to us.

Today we took down years of work and while I sometimes just live in a bubble of what I think I have created I lose sight of the staff and after we he had disabled years’ worth of work today Contact Lefts manager said he could cry, that’s exactly the way I have felt all day without realizing its other peoples years of work as well, he started as an apprentice years ago and now runs the place it must be heart breaking. The head of manufacturing/head designer who’s prioritizing what work needs to be done for the Public Services coming in day after day to make sure that the Police have the right kit, these actions aren’t done because they are looking at making loads of money. The same people worked late after major terrorist incidents in the UK to make sure kit got out.

Loads of messages today from people offering us help with delivering orders if we need it, shops that we supply telling us they are closing but will still pay all their bills, the list goes on.

To everyone who we haven’t replied to in an email or any trade orders that havnt been invoiced yet, we will get them done tonight or early tomorrow. For anyone that thinks we shouldn’t be trading at all right now, God will be our judge and believe me the last thing I want to do is go home from work and pass this virus onto my family or vice versa.

Posted in: Effects of the Coronavirus on a small business


7 months ago 1001 Views No comments

Today is another day that is hectic, I write this as we expect the government to announce lock down, in what form I don’t know.

We have 3 off work and only 25% reduced orders so there is no time to get everything done, I speak to people at Contact Left and they are unsure about what’s happening and ask me, I don’t really know myself, I don’t fully understand the direction the government is giving but right at this minute there is no need to lay any staff off. The sales of Face Masks have allowed one member of staff to work from home but we have not had enough orders to reroll anyone yet.

The work from home is something that I never ever wanted as in reality there are loads of legal implications behind it however the member of staff who is going to work from home probably isn’t going to sue us and as they took work home with them they informed me that they were okay if I didn’t pay them.

The one other member of staff who is working from home (My Wife) has a 2 year old child to look after and the emails aren’t coming through on the lap top and does anyone really think you can effectively work with a 2 year old running around??? So after a day of that the only option is to catch up in the evening.

The massive order we hoped would be placed with us for the hand sanitizer from a massive UK company looks like it probably won’t come off, this is even though we are the cheapest to quote. I was hoping this would be the order to keep us going through everything. Not the end of the world though there are still plenty of orders coming through from shops and small businesses for it.

Sean spoke to me this evening about how (as we are not doing too bad at the moment) we can support those working in high risk environments especially as we are selling items that are directly related to this Pandemic. We will now donate 1 Reusable UK Made Face Mask for every 10 we make to someone who is working in a care home or medical profession. I am sorry that we cant give everyone one but as long as we can afford to do it we will do this.

We are getting loads of people getting businesses to buy off us and this is keeping us going, loads of people sharing our posts and still loads of ideas coming through, I have made Docs item but not listed yet (Its coming soon) and Amy from Derry/Londonderry has recommended us making some videos of the kit we have, we will definatly be doing that.

As I get ready to hear about Lock Down on tonight’s 2030hrs government briefing, I hope you are all well and thank you for reading. Please keep sharing this blog and recommend us to everyone.

P.S The person who was stood about 2 inches behind me in the que at the shop tonight if your reading this please practice social distancing, if you had stood that close to me when I was 20 years old I would have knocked you the f@~k out and there wasn’t even a virus around then.

Posted in: Effects of the Coronavirus on a small business


7 months ago 887 Views No comments

I have to be careful that I keep this blog about the effects of the coronavirus on Contact Left and not a personal rant about the goings on in the world, I am sure everyone has an opinion on today’s goings on.

Today the the Co-Owner must go into Lock Down, this is completely understandable but is an effect, luckily if able a lot of work may be able to be done from home but unlike before will not be able to come to the unit at all. As of today we have 3 staff that can’t come onto the premises, first child care, second in the at risk group and another today because they live with someone who may have the Virus. Above all else forgetting about work I wish we could just close down for 2 weeks and everything right itself but that’s not going to happen as this is the long haul.

6 days ago when I started this blog it was solely about keeping the business going and everyone paid even though I had an idea this was coming weeks ago I don’t think I saw the extent of this or how bad the Pandemic was going to be. There is no room for error now, we have at least 7 unfulfilled contracts to the UK Public Services this includes, Baton Vests, Boots, Bags, Hand Sanitiser, Hats and some others, we have to fulfill these the best we can and keep providing these items. Today in Manchester a 7 year old girl was stabbed to death, the Police still have horrific crime going even in this pandemic time, I only hope it doesn’t get worse but Contact Left must support our public services more now.

Another act of kindness, Jeremy who is a self-employed dog handler drove out of his way to buy from us today, phoned first to say what he wanted, waited outside the shop and then contact less paid, had a chance to chat to him with good distance between us, his work has dried up as he does a lot of sporting events with his dog but still went a couple of hours out of his way to put money into Contact Left and his partner who is from a retail background gave me some excellent advice on what I may be able to do going forward if we struggle.

As always everyone, keep any ideas coming on what you think we should sell at this time. Anything that you think will be useful to yourself or to the public services let us know and we can either get it in and retail were possible or make it. The face masks that were put forward are selling well.

This week will be a big test for any small business that is staying open in these times and we will only make it with your support, that doesn’t mean you make a sympathy purchase, it means share and promote and support all small businesses that are still going.

Thanks David

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