The company didn’t take long to make the switch
When the COVID-19 pandemic started spreading across Canada, Brian French knew he had to act fast to save his company.
Burnaby-based Peregrine Retail Design Manufacturing was built on helping high-end restaurants and retailers create their front-end experiences. Peregrine counts brands like Saje Natural Wellness, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce and Lululemon Athletica among its clients, as well as eateries from coffee monolith Starbucks to trendy Vancouver haunt Elisa.
But that was all about to dry up as restaurants and clothiers were among the first to experience the COVID-19 squeeze. Peregrine soon felt it, too. During the week of March 16—the day the prime minister declared a ban on all non-essential travel outside the country—the company had to lay off about 30 percent of its 85 employees.
“Our core customers are retail and restaurants, so we’ve seen a lot of projects delayed and even a few outright cancelled,” French, president of Peregrine, says. “It’s definitely been a shock to the system.”
But French and co. quickly hatched a plan to stop the bleeding. The solution? Manufacturing Plexiglas shields.
“By the end of that week, we were starting to pivot into developing these Plexiglas shields and reaching out to our customers and other businesses we thought would need them,” French recalls.
Peregrine got the shields into full-on production by March 24. Although the company had missed what French calls the “first wave” of product need—grocery stores—it got in hard on the second one, supplying banks, liquor stores, gas stations and hospitals across Western Canada with Plexiglas shields.
French reckons there’s soon going to be a third wave: operations that are closed but will want to open fairly soon, such as fast food restaurants, airports, hotels and mobile phone providers.
While he’s thankful that Peregrine has been able to take on new business during this time (he estimates that the 400-plus barriers his company is producing per day account for about 25 percent of its current workload), he acknowledges that times are still tough.
“We’ve been fortunate to have the Plexiglas business kind of come hard and fast at us,” French relates. “We’ve made up some of the lost ground, but not all of it.”
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