COVID-19 Challenges; A Year in Review with Paul Miller

The last year has been an incredibly difficult one, with an unprecedented amount of challenges. It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has had a considerable affect on businesses as well as individuals.

Through these many challenges, the Stone Zone has proudly been able to keep afloat as well as contuining to expand due to continual demand for landscaping products across the country. 

We interview the Managing Director and founder of the company, Paul Miller, to learn of the difficulties and how he was able to adapt to such situations. 

How many challenges have you faced this year following from the COVID pandemic?

Pretty much everyday has posed one challenge or another. The main issue is the rising costs and availability of goods, coupled with staff self isolating. It's been by far the most challenging two years since the business started.

It's the cost of shipping that is our primary concern at the moment, it's currently 7 times more than it was 2 years ago from India, and that of course is pushing prices up beyond what is a sensible level.

Having said that, there is lots of good things that have come from that, I feel the staff we have are better equipped to represent to company, and we have been able to stream line costs which will help the business remain competitive in the longer term.

Are you pleased with how the company adapted to the many challenges that you faced?

Really pleased, as mentioned before, its been demanding, not just on me but all our staff who have had to work extremely hard and over and above the norm. As a team we have changed the procedures of the company which has been a challenge, and this will have a benefit to the staff and our customers in the long term.

In terms of stock, how did you pivot around this issue to ensure you could keep up with the demand?

This has been a challenge, from a personal point of view I feel a duty to be able to make sure we had stock on the ground so our customers had the materials to effectively make their own business’ work; that’s what we are here for.

Over the years we have worked hard to forge good business relationships with suppliers all over the world, and I think this has held us in good stead during these difficult times. Some things, though, are out of everybody’s control, such as the shortage of shipping containers, a worldwide shortage of staff due to the pandemic and in some parts Brexit has forced import parameters to change. They call it the perfect storm, but not the perfect scenario for us of course!

"I feel a duty to be able to make sure we had stock on the ground so our customers had the materials to effectively make their own business’ work; that’s what we are here for."

How do you think stock will be affected going forward?

It will remain a challenge, and there is a balancing act of holding enough stock, getting stock in whilst it's available as it can be very sporadic) and ensuring suppliers are paid on time. I would like to think the issues surrounding stock availability may ease next year, but I think it’s likely to be mid 2022 at least until some normality returns, but of course that can all be turned on its head very quickly as we have previously experienced.

The pandemic saw a huge rise in people renovating their house and garden. Do you think the rise in garden renovation will continue?

I think it wont be as ‘manic’ as it was this year, I think once people can holiday abroad, and the level of demand there has been and gone already it's likely to drop off next year. We are planning for a drop of approximately 20% on demand compared to this year.

Thanks for your time Paul, and here's to a brighter (and less stressful) future!


Struggling to get stock? This has been our main priority throughout the pandemic to ensure landscapers are able to continue their businesses. Please call us on 01202 874207 for any stock queries.

Do you have a landscaping business? You may be eligible for a Trade card where you can receive 10% off all products as well as a free hot drink at any one of our depots!