UPDATE: SOS implements work rotation for staff
Stationery & Office Supplies Limited, SOS, has implemented work rotation schedules, which sees only 50 per cent of its staff working from the office on a daily basis, as it tries to balance the needs of the business and the welfare of employees.
The commercial fallouts from the coronavirus pandemic has changed expectations for SOS, which had hoped to build on the record quarter in December when its sales topped $343 million over three months, partially attributable to its acquisition of the SEEK book business.
The company, which has supplied office furniture and equipment to corporate businesses over a half-decade - one of its largest clients being operators within the business process outsourcing sector - has been making attempts to partially plug the hole in revenue from individuals looking to set up home offices in line with social-distancing orders and more efficient operational strategies.
In addition to the daily rotation of in-office staff, SOS's management team has taken a 20 per cent pay cut.
"The current unprecedented down turn in the economy is being felt by all, which is why we have put measures in place to support our current clients and cut prices across the board to do our part to support businesses,” Deputy Managing Director Allan McDaniel told the Financial Gleaner.
“Some of our sales team is now working from home, and I know that they have been reaching out to individuals at companies we have business with. But now they are not necessarily contacting that individual for what the company might need, they want to know what is it that we can do for you,” he said.
SOS is also offering discounts and promotional home office items to employees of some large corporate clients, but has found that most individuals see the work-from-home measures implemented by the Government as short term, and, as such, are particular about the amount of money they want to spend on office furniture.
“We have to find some low-end-priced products but we try to balance that with quality. Even though we’ve had an uptick in that, the downward trend in sales from corporate Jamaica has affected us severely,” said McDaniel.
“What we normally expect in April, we are significantly below that, and so at this point we are just trying to weather the storm,” he said.
In January, when the coronavirus’ toll on China was heavy, SOS continued stocking up on inventory in anticipation of a shortage in supply. That stock was meant to honour contracts secured from BPO firms expanding in Jamaica, and otherwise fulfilling SOS’s usual purchase orders.
“One of the things we find about the BPO sector is that once they expand, you normally have big bursts of business with them,” McDaniel said.
But things quickly changed in March when Jamaica confirmed its first case of COVID-19 and the Government imposed restrictions to prevent further spread of the deadly disease.
Now, SOS is left with a higher-than-usual level of inventory, but McDaniel is hopeful that the reopening of school planned for September can give the company the push start it needs to get revenue flow back on track.
“We have to ensure that we have our SEEK line of books ready. We are looking from the positive side that not a lot of people are going to be importing at this time, whether it be from a lack of cash flow or just uncertainty,” he said.
“Also, businesses may not have inventory right now, where in contrast, we have a significant level of inventory to help everybody as well as ourselves get back to business the way it was,” he added.
The downturn notwithstanding, SOS is holding to plans for a 10,000-square foot warehouse expansion project, for which it is still awaiting approval from the National Environment & Planning Agency, NEPA.
“Everything is ready. The flooring is done; the building materials are here. We are just waiting on final approvals. When we had put in the final [papers] was just when COVID-19 started affecting everybody, and of course you can imagine that things have slowed down internally for NEPA,” he said.
The warehouse, which is to be developed on lands at Collins Avenue, Kingston, links to SOS’ Beechwood Avenue head office and will allow the company to hold larger inventory and speed up bulk sales.
CLARIFICATION: Allan McDaniel has clarified and expanded on his comments provided in the initial article, including that the reference to 50% cuts was not related to jobs but the amount of staff working from the office. Accordingly, the story and headline have been adjusted.