On March 5th 2020 South Africa had its first confirmed case of COVID-19. The patient was a 38-year-old man who was returning from Italy with his wife. By the 27th of the same month South Africa was under national lock down. The South African economy and its people were hit hard by this virus. But at the same time, CEMSA had a whole other issue on our hands.
I still remember getting the phone call, I stepped out of my lecture on a Summer morning and answered my phone. It was official, our Italian supplier of over 20 years, IPC Italy had decided to appoint an additional distributor in South Africa.
As you can imagine, initially this was quite a shock. IPC supplied us with our entire range of Floor Scrubbers, our import High Pressure Washers, 90% of our Vacuum Cleaners and Carpet Extractors and a plethora of other odds and ends. For more than 20 years we had built their brand, pushed their products and stocked their spares for the African market. And the worst part is that they had already begun the process behind our back.
This is the kind of thing that cripples businesses, not to mention that this was happening at the peak of the COVID-19 lock down. A plan had to be made.
Our relationship with Italy goes back to when our founder, Chris Dahl struck a deal with Portotecnica to get a 40ft container stacked to the brim with pressure washers into the country. With a 120-day account, and a lot of motivation CEMSA and its sister company MaPa Cleaning Technologies were born.
Over the years we have faced many challenges. Yet, despite it all quality was and still is a core part of our business, which is why we never doubted our equipment and its ability to solve any cleaning challenge. Throughout the years we pushed the Italian brands, manufactured our own range of local cleaning solutions and empowered the South African market.
So How Did We Survive COVID-19?
According to Business Tech (2020) almost half of SMMEs (Small, Medium & Micro Enterprises) in South Africa had to close as a result of the implemented lock down. And we were close to joining that list. With our doors open but business being slow, we had to do what we do best- innovate and adapt.
Our secret? Hand sanitizer. Yup, like many businesses around the country we began selling hand-sanitizer to make-up for lost business. Our sister company MaPa Cleaning Technologies who operate out of the same premises have a chemical manufacturing plant where they produce their own range of cleaning chemicals. Our director Paul formulated, tested and launched our very own range of 75% alcohol hand sanitizer.
But it wasn’t enough, most of our turnover came from selling machines. But who would buy a pressure washer or floor scrubber in the middle of a national lock down? Thus, the PSU or Pressure Sanitizing Unit was born. With the help of our top-notch sales team, Paul and our awesome Assembly department developed a misting machine that would effectively disinfect & kill any bacteria or viruses on a variety of surfaces.
Along with the hand sanitizer and our PSU, we also sold hundreds of TeeJet backpack sprayers. Not to mention the countless trigger spray bottles and masks. May 2020 rolled around, level 4 lock down was announced and the worst of it was behind us. But this still left one question, what are we going to do about our range? (Or lack thereof)
ADDING FUEL TO THE FIRE
the momentum was building
Lock down level 1, our full staff complement were back at the office, our range re-instated and our confidence renewed. We wanted more. If we could overcome all of this, why not take it a step or two further? Over the course of a few months we have restructured and recompiled how we distributed our products. Exclusive distributor contracts were drawn up and the benefits associated with them were established.
On 17 May 2021, CEM-Connect V2.0– a new and improved stock status and price fetching system exclusive to CEMSA customers will be live. No more calling in to get a price or see if there is stock, just do it from the convenience of your phone or desk!
You may have also noticed that we brought back the iconic CEMSA elephant first used when CEMSA was registered back in 1989b. It symbolizes not only cleaning, but our ability to adapt and survive, no matter the circumstances. Along with it we released the 2021 version of both our Spares & Accessories and Machine catalogue. Oh, and did we mention that we also rebuilt our entire website?
If you’re an exclusive CEMSA distributor, then you’ve probably already received your ‘Dealer Box’ containing your new catalogue and some goodies to go along with it! Yes, we’ve been very busy.
Where are we now?
With the website out of the way, CEM-Connect V2.0 under construction, and our new contracts and dealer boxers rolling out we are officially ready to continue taking the market by storm. Family and quality are at the center of everything we do. Which is why we make used of a dealer network to distribute, service and repair our products. But ‘dealer network’ is just corporate jargon. Allow us to break down what a dealer is to us.
Some of our most successful and reliable customers include the dealers who started with us. Henning from Wash-Vac and Warren Campbell at CICT are but two of multiple success stories people have found within our family. When you represent our brand, our range and our vision by being a loyal CEMSA distributor you are met with the following awesome benefits:
- The highest level of discount we offer across our range
- First priority on any and all leads in your designated area
- Up-to-date training in sales and repairs
- Marketing support on social media and at events
- Special pricing on a website for your business
- Access to CEM-Connect, our live stock and price fetching system
- A family that will always have your back!
With CEMSA, you can have peace of mind knowing that we would never compromise the relationship we have with our distributors. We never sell to the end user.
We’ve been through so much over the past 20 odd years, and even more so after 2020. But if we can draw anything out of what happened its that we’re stronger together. Thank you so much to all of our loyal customers and staff who stuck by our side through it all. We promise to continue to innovate, grow and empower the South African cleaning industry, one solution at a time.