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Distributors opening doors to customers


June 9, 2020
By Neil Sutton
ADI Toronto branch staff: Domenic Aiello, Joseph Ojelade and Lexi Lui

With COVID-19 restrictions now lifting across the nation, distributors are re-opening branches to foot traffic, but with safety and social distancing guidelines in place.

Joanne Rowe, branch manager for ADI Toronto, says her branch moved quickly to a curbside pick-up model when the pandemic took hold in March and reopened the branch for customer visits the week of May 18.

Rowe says she is personally staffing the front door to greet customers and ensure guidelines are being met. Branch staff have been issued personal protective equipment, including gloves and masks. “That was one of my main focuses — having the staff protected,” says Rowe. “That was the company’s motto as well: to make sure the staff felt comfortable.”

At press time, only five customers at a time were permitted in the branch, which features prominent social distancing signage and arrows on the floor indicating foot traffic direction. Visitors are asked to use the supplied hand sanitizer; they also have access to carts, which are sanitized after each use. In addition, counter areas are all covered by clear screens and transactions are card-only, no cash — “just to take the risk out of the equation. And for the most part, customers are OK with that,” says Rowe.

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Communal areas have also been cleared of amenities like coffee stations and snacks as a precautionary measure.

Anixter branches are also open for business and have adopted similar measures, according to Jimmy Ma, manager of the company’s Scarborough branch, near Toronto.

“From the beginning, we have directed our energies at maintaining the health and well-being of our employees, customers, suppliers and communities,” explained Ma via an email interview. “Our now established vigorous safety protocols have allowed us to remain open throughout. We continue to provide PPE to our team members, promote social distancing and have a regular and rigorous cleaning and disinfecting process conducted by our third-party facility maintenance providers.”

Anixter Scarborough, Ont., branch staff: Jimmy Ma, Andrew Turriff and Diana Villatoro

Ma said that Anixter’s approach, beginning in March, included the creation of a “Coronavirus Task Force” to focus on the safety of staff, customers and suppliers.

“We promptly rolled out curbside pickup to minimize contact and continued to offer shipping to customers’ sites, 24-hour locker pickup (where available) and in-store pickup, with signage promoting social distancing expectations,” he explained.

Rowe says that curbside pick-up has also been a popular option at her branch, serving approximately 30 to 35 customers a day, and is still available. It’s “a huge added value to the dealer,” she said, and might become a permanent feature for customers after the pandemic. Another unintended but welcome biproduct of pandemic measures is, customers have discovered products that they might not have otherwise seen by following the floor arrows, she added. Online ordering has also been available throughout with a discounted a flat rate shipping fee of $10 for any order over $500. “It was definitely economical for the dealers.”

Anixter’s portal, Anixter.ca, has also experienced an uptick in usage, said Ma, building “momentum both in terms of the number of customers buying online and the volume of sales transactions processed.” The added bonus of online ordering is it “allows our customers to research products, print part number spec sheets, check pricing and track orders from anywhere.”

Added Ma, “we understand that our customers are having to adapt to their own jobsite challenges and we are here to help.”