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Scottish hardware specialist expands amid gardening and DIY boom | Irn-Bru shortage warning as deliveries suffer from HGV and supply chain issues | Opinion: Russell Borthwick

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HELLO and welcome to the AM Business Briefing, as Irn-Bru maker AG Barr has warned deliveries are suffering from HGV and supply chain issues, and panic buying of petrol shows no sign of ending, retailers have warned, as filling stations in many parts of the country continue to run dry.

The British Medical Association said health and care workers “can’t afford” to spend a few hours waiting for fuel as it called for the Government to ensure that critical workers have access.

Dr David Wrigley, deputy chair of the BMA council, told Times Radio: “One example would be that a particular fuel station is designated for critical workers so we are allowed to get about our day-to-day jobs by getting the fuel that we need.”

Also today, a Scottish hardware specialist is expanding after a gardening and DIY boom, Irn-Bru maker AG Barr has issued a deliveries issues warning, and Russell Borthwick broaches business rates in his Business Voices column. 

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Hardware specialist in expansion push

A Prestwick-based hardware and housewares supplier is tripling the size of its Helensburgh premises to cope with rising demand from UK gardeners and DIYers.

Wright’s Home Hardware, founded in 1969, offers customers a range of housewares, garden essentials, building repair materials, plumbing supplies, DIY, paint and tools from its 10 stores across Central and the West of Scotland and is  now growing with support from Bank of Scotland.

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Despite initial disruption from lockdown being imposed in March 2021, the firm was ultimately classified as an essential business.

A combination of good weather and customers looking to make garden and home improvements during lockdown caused sales in the company’s key categories of gardening and DIY to increase by 30%. To accommodate rising consumer demand in these areas, the company acquired a new premises in Helensburgh, located immediately adjacent to the existing store on Sinclair Street.

Wright’s Home Hardware received a £385,000 funding package from Bank of Scotland to facilitate this expansion. The new premises bring an additional 10,000 sq ft of space to the firm and will feature the company’s first garden centre and a new interior furniture showroom for the town.

Wright’s Home Hardware currently employs 115 staff and is planning to hire an additional 11 employees ahead of the new site’s October opening. 

Fiona Leary, finance & business development director at Wright’s Home Hardware, said: “While the pandemic was, and continues to be, an incredibly disruptive time for us all, it also reminded our customers of the important role local stores play as part of any high street.

“After we were granted essential business status, and we got through the first frightening period in which all businesses had to adapt to the new conditions, we saw our demand pick up significantly with shoppers increasingly looking to do their own home improvements. A lot of our customers also said doing gardening and DIY had a hugely positive impact on their mental health as they had something productive to do during lockdown. 

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“We got a lot of positive feedback from the communities we serve across Scotland: customers reported that we’d helped them ‘Keep the Heid’. We also ran a very popular free delivery service and hired extra vans and drivers throughout both lockdowns to help people cope.

“As we regained stability, we decided to press ahead with plans to acquire the new premises and expand our business. The support from Bank of Scotland helped us to make these ambitions a reality and we can’t wait to open our new store in October.”

Paul McWilliams, relationship director at Bank of Scotland, said: “Wright’s Home Hardware has been a staple of many high streets in Central and Western Scotland for over 50 years now and this new expansion marks the next stage in the company’s growth plans.

“With people across Britain spending £110bn* on home improvements throughout the pandemic, stores like Wright’s have played a massive role in helping people invest in their properties – something that has surged in popularity as people spend greater periods of time at home.

“The new garden centre and outdoor furniture unit will be a welcome addition in Helensburgh and we’re truly excited to see the new store and what it has to offer.”

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Irn-Bru shortage warning as deliveries suffer from HGV and supply chain issues

Irn-Bru maker AG Barr has revealed it is struggling to make deliveries of its drinks due to the HGV and supply chain issues.

The company said it continues to “monitor closely” the situation and is hopeful the issues can be resolved soon.

Russell Borthwick: Business rates bills must reflect reality

Throughout the course of the pandemic, Chambers of Commerce have been consistently raising our concerns about the unintended consequences of the rapid shift to hybrid working, and the major implications this may have for our once-thriving urban centres.

Research from the CIPD found that 40 per cent of employers expect more than half of their workforce to work from home for at least one day a week after the pandemic has ended, but it remains unclear how this will play out in practice. 

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