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The Struggles Of Sourcing PPE In A Covid-19 World

Soaring demand, soaring prices and closing borders are just some of the hurdles faced by Christchurch-based safety gear supplier Leedsafe in the current pandemic.

“We feel very privileged to be able to supply companies in desperate need of PPE and safety gear ,” says Brendan Rice, Managing Director, “But being a supplier at the centre of demand during COVID-19 has brought some huge challenges too.”

Face masks and hand sanitisers that used to sell in their hundreds are now selling in tens and hundreds of thousands before they even land at the warehouse. And with many construction companies returning to work under Alert Level 3 the demand is only going to go up.

Leedsafe staff saw demand building in February but in March it hit unprecedented levels with people buying anything considered protective against COVID-19. For Wayne Collingwood, Operations Manager, this meant a completely different working environment and with regular manufacturers shutting down he was scouring the globe for new suppliers 24/7.

Added into the mix were constantly rising prices from manufacturers, draconian payment terms and constantly closing borders around the globe.

“We were able to source products from some existing and new suppliers but when we placed another order the price would have gone up again due to global demands. As the situation got worse in Europe and the US, prices just started to skyrocket so this resulted in very challenging negotiations.” says Wayne.

Transporting goods from overseas has also been hugely difficult. With most commercial flights cancelled, it has been a race to find space on chartered planes or get a slot with over extended freight services like DHL. Working around closing borders and changes in regulations from other countries has made it even harder.

But there have been positives too. The response from customers, including those in the retirement home sector, has been one of amazing gratitude.

There has also been even greater collaboration with customers, building trust with new suppliers and random acts of kindness. For example, Leedsafe recently distributed 1000 donated face masks to several community organisations including Dementia Canterbury and donated hand sanitiser to Kilmarnock Enterprises.

“It has been full on with long days but, on a personal level, it’s also been incredibly rewarding to be able to help people when they really needed it most,” says Wayne.

About Leedsafe

Based in Christchurch and established in 1981, Leedsafe supply safety clothing, footwear and PPE throughout New Zealand. With a team of 25+ and customers that include some of the country’s largest civil construction and transport companies, Leedsafe are a trusted PPE supplier.

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