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Grafton seeing spike in demand despite Covid-19 crisis

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The company, which owns builders' merchant brands including MacBlair in Northern Ireland, is keeping all of its Republic shops open for the foreseeable future. (stock photo)

The company, which owns builders' merchant brands including MacBlair in Northern Ireland, is keeping all of its Republic shops open for the foreseeable future. (stock photo)

The company, which owns builders' merchant brands including MacBlair in Northern Ireland, is keeping all of its Republic shops open for the foreseeable future. (stock photo)

MacBlair owner the Grafton Group has reported "some evidence" of stronger demand in a number of its shops as people spend an increasing amount of time at home because of the coronavirus.

The company, which owns builders' merchant brands including MacBlair in Northern Ireland, is keeping all of its Republic shops open for the foreseeable future.

It has stepped up hygiene levels in shops and limited the number of customers that can enter at one time.

In Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, however, it has closed its shops and manufacturing plants for three weeks.

Subject to clarity from the Government, a small number of branches will remain open to supply materials for essential repair and maintenance work to local authorities.

The Covid-19 virus will lead to a "material" decline in revenue and profitability over the coming months, the company said in an update yesterday.

It added that it was in a "very strong" financial position, with unrestricted cash of £303m and undrawn committed revolving bank facilities of £275m.

No refinancing of debt is due until March 2023.

Gavin Slark, CEO of Grafton, said: "Grafton is in a strong financial position with excellent liquidity and I am confident that the group will emerge from this period of uncertainty in a position of strength."

Elsewhere, service station giant Applegreen said it expects a "material reduction" in profitability this year as footfall and sales decline in its shops due to the coronavirus. It has six service stations in Northern Ireland.

On the back of this it is deferring executive director bonuses, implementing a recruitment freeze and suspending its final dividend for 2019.

In addition, the company is opening negotiations with landlords on rental holidays in order to protect profitability and conserve cash, it said in a trading update.

Applegreen is also deferring its development capital expenditure and availing of the newly introduced government relief measures for businesses.

As well as Ireland and the UK, it also a presence in the United States.

All of its stores remain open and its supply chain is fully operational.

The scale of the impact depends on how the situation develops and over what timeframe, as well as the impact of measures taken by governments in the markets in which it operates.

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