AFTER being plunged into the unknown at the start of the coronavirus crisis, it has been a hectic period for one of the town’s clothing companies.

Bubble Customised Clothing has had its work cut out during the Covid-19 pandemic in what has been a testing period.

The business, which is based at Palatine Industrial Estate, off Causeway Avenue, saw demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) surge during the crisis.

But it is now turning its attention to one of the more traditional parts of its business, school uniforms.

The firm distributes the clothing either to schools or directly to parents on behalf of schools.

Speaking to the Warrington Guardian as part of our Backing Local Businesses campaign, managing director Sam Wareing said: “It is school uniform season for us so we are sort of full pelt back into that really.

“At the moment, it is primarily just Warrington. We have got a couple of high schools and a handful of primary schools across Warrington that we do school uniforms for.

“School uniforms are pretty time consuming from a production point of view.

“That is taking up a lot of our time at the moment, in addition to some businesses reopening and the likes of the market opening and stuff like that – we do a little bit of stuff for people in the market too.

“We are still doing some PPE, our other customer base has opened back up and businesses have started working again, so we have started doing more on that side.”

Meanwhile, Sam reflected on a testing few months for the company during the unprecedented period.

He said: “I think, in terms of learning, we’ve just got to be reactive and then proactive and diversifying and doing what you can and stick to doing a good job for people.

“In terms of the scary point, it was right at the start really where there were a lot of unknowns in terms of it was coming about quite quickly, the talks of a lockdown and then going into lockdown.

“There were unknowns about what we were going to be able to do in terms of keeping staff on and where the work was going to come from.

“It was that early stage really.

“More recently, we have been fortunate in that we have been able to get on with things and we knew the school uniform season was coming so that has given us something to work towards as we came out of lockdown.”

The company imported more than 500,000 items of PPE for customers during the Covid-19 crisis, mainly Warrington Borough Council.

However, it has been critical about the increasing prices from suppliers in China although it appears the costs have now returned to normal levels.

Sam said: “We have been quoted prices out of China that are considerably less than they were at the start of lockdown.”

Bubble Customised Clothing’s focus on distributing school uniforms comes amid a national debate over youngsters returning to school.

Conservative Warrington South MP Andy Carter says he agrees with Prime Minister Boris Johnson that there is a ‘moral duty’ to get all children back into schools in the country next month.

Mr Carter, who won his seat in the general election in December, says school ‘is the best place for our children to be’.

“I’ve seen brilliant teachers in Warrington providing superb education for children through lockdown – in the classroom and online,” he said.

“I know many parents have worked and home-schooled their kids too but over two million children nationwide have done barely any school work since March.”

Meanwhile, an independent menswear fashion retailer which has slashed prices since reopening remains optimistic despite facing a ‘totally unprecedented’ challenge.

Spektrum Apparel at Golden Square Shopping Centre has adapted to a new way of life amid the coronavirus pandemic.

It is currently operating on slightly reduced hours, with some staff still on furlough.

Store manager Sheraz Tariq said: “Unfortunately, it has been an unprecedented time.

“But it is not just for us, everybody is in the same boat.

“We had a lot of new spring summer stock that came during the first week of the March, so two weeks before lockdown.

“When we reopened we were down we were down by around 30 per cent on weekly takings but we weren’t making a profit because we were just selling the goods near enough cost price.

“We decided the best thing was to put them on sale as a lot of businesses have done, to cut margins and just to ensure that we could turn that stock into cash to pay suppliers.

“We slashed prices by up to 50 per cent. But to be honest it has been a lot better than I expected – it has not been busy but my expectation was low.”

The shop has spent money on personal protect equipment, a protective screen, signage and hand sanitiser dispenser to keep customers and staff safe.

Sheraz said: “It has been an expense that we didn’t need but we had to do it to adhere to Government guidelines.

“I have worked in retail for over 20 years and I have never, even when we were in a recession, experienced anything like this. It is a totally unprecedented time.

“I am optimist but to be honest, as a retailer, this year has been written off.

“It is not about making a profit – as long as we can break even at the end of the year I think it is a job well done.

“There are a lot of businesses that are shutting down because it is having a catastrophic effect on them.

"If it wasn’t for our loyal customers we would not be here today – shopping local is a lifeline for independent businesses in every sector."

Sheraz also praised Golden Square for the measures they have introduced since the shopping centre reopened for business.

Adam Mansell, CEO of the UK Fashion & Textile Association, says Covid-19 has hit the UK fashion industry particularly hard ‘as the extended lockdown period meant that people weren’t shopping for seasonal occasions or events and the lucrative tourist trade was halted’.

He added: “Many fashion brands are sitting on huge inventories which will have a big impact on cashflow.

“Fashion businesses were already facing increasing cost pressures and a shift in consumer buying behaviour so this will prove too much to overcome for a significant number in our industry.

“UKFT research suggests that almost two-thirds of companies we surveyed anticipate some job losses in the short to medium term.

“However, this period is leading to increased demand for manufacturing in the UK, which with the right support will lead to positive job opportunities and growth.”