Return to trading just at the right time

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JACK.CONROY@nullcluthaleader.co.nz

The national return to trading could not have come at a better time for Balclutha’s Johnstone Electrical, owner Mary Johnstone says.

‘‘For us this time of year is our busiest, so it’s good that we’ve opened up in time for it,’’ Mrs Johnstone said.

The recent frosty weather had increased demand for products the store sold.

‘‘We expected things to be buoyant and it is exceptionally busy, with heating in particular.’’

A return to normality was welcomed after what had been a lockdown period with many ups and downs.

‘‘There was two days of absolute chaos with everybody rushing in and wanting to make purchases at the same time.

‘‘We were also trying to figure out how we were going to manage what we thought was going to be the next four weeks but which turned out to be six weeks.’’

Managing that time was complicated by the changing status of what products could be deemed ‘‘essential’’ during lockdown.

‘‘That was an evolving thing,’’ she said.

‘‘First off TVs and dishwashers weren’t deemed as essential and then of course they came through as essential later.’’

What helped through the more than a month-long period was the Government wage subsidy.

‘‘When that came through it meant we were able to pay our staff at their normal rates all the way through, which was obviously on every business person’s mind. That was a tremendous help.’’

For staff the experience involved a ‘‘steep learning curve’’ as they adapted to different ways of conducting business.

‘‘Primarily, two people were on dealing with sales and servicing through that period.

‘‘We were also tweaking our website and, of course, having everyone who needed to be operating online.’’

This year marked 40 years in operation for the business, and she had been through a number of challenging times that put the business in good stead to weather the recent storm, Mrs Johnstone said.

‘‘We survived the Muldoon government with, I think, inflation rates of 26% . . .and a number of recessions over the years.’’

Having jumped this most recent hurdle, ‘‘we’re very happy and passionate about our community and looking forward to the next 20 years’’.