Part II – Richmond’s Shop Safety PPE deemed essential to meet COVID-19 pandemic needs

(In 1981 when Ronald Myers started AF Pollution Abatement Systems Inc. he drove the roads of Ontario and attended trade shows selling his absorbent product Oclansorb. Here is Ronald at a trade show with his products in 1993. Photo: AF Pollution Abatement Systems Archives)

(Last week Stittsville Central provided the history of the start-up for the companies AF Pollution Abatement Systems Inc. and ShopSafety.ca of Richmond. Since the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, they have been in demand with PPE sales and distribution – here is a look at what has filled the company’s days since January, 2020.)

Coming to January 2020. ShopSafety.ca started getting lots of requests for face masks from Toronto. At first they wondered what the reason could be, but soon found out like the rest of Canada, and during all of February, the company was busy sourcing face masks and gloves.

As more and more businesses closed, ShopSafety.ca was in a do or die situation in March. If forced to close, it would mean the end of a nearly 40 year run. A small business just cannot stay closed for months on end. Erwin Gerrits, Marketing and Product Development Rep told us, “there has been absolutely no government help for small businesses such as ours, so we were getting very worried…then, we were lucky we could stay open as we were deemed essential due to the fact we were supplying the Ottawa Hospital with much needed cleaners, gloves and masks.”

Though our biggest customers, such as the Canadian Forces and Public Works, were mostly shut down and were starting to really slow down on the buying front, sales from the general public picked up as people were fed up with long waits and crashing websites at Home Depot and Lowes. Thanks to the PPE sold on shopSafety.ca the company managed to stay open and in business picking up the slack where the usual customers weren’t. Where PPE goods were perhaps 10% of the business last year, it took over as their best selling product line in March, April and May. Of course, now there are lots of overnight “PPE Online” stores popping up peddling PPE goods of mysterious sources, so the demand gets spread out a bit more.

ShopSafety.ca currently only manufacture spill kits and PPE kits at our location. We bring in everything else. We operate from our local office & warehouse on the fringe of Richmond, and ship from our other warehouses in Montreal and Calgary to customers out East or out West.

All of the face masks the company carries are approved by Health Canada and are not on the Health Canada Recall list. There are a lot of recalled KN95 masks out there for sale, and people just don’t know it. You have to be careful these days shopping around for PPE products.

     

Approximately 99% of the KN95s and face masks on the market now are China made. There are just none made anywhere else that are available to non-medical institutions. A box of non-medical flat style face masks was selling for $7.20 in December, our cost: $5.25. Now, our cost is ten times that. This is due to a number of factors: China is no longer subsidizing their manufacturing plants or their shipping costs. Chinese factories cannot handle the volume of orders, so orders go to the highest bidder. Airports and ports cannot handle the traffic, and ships and freight planes cannot handle the volume of orders going out, so, again, he who pays the most gets the slot. There is a lot of talk about gouging and complaining the goods are so expensive, but there are a lot of factors going on in the background the ordinary consumer may not realize. Sometimes we have to buy our goods from somebody in Vancouver and have a huge freight cost getting it to Ottawa.

(Ronald Myers and his son Mike – who now owns the company with his sister Joanne – in attendance at a Collingwood, Ontario Trade Show in 1993. Photo: AF Pollution Abatement Systems Archives)

ShopSafety.ca currently provide PPE supplies to: the Ottawa Fire Department and the City of Ottawa, Montague, Carleton Place, Perth, Smiths Falls, Cornwall, Kingston and Toronto fire departments, Hydro Ottawa & Hydro One, the universities and as said before, the Canadian Forces (CFB Petawawa, Kingston & Trenton and others) and Public Works. They hold the National Standing Master Offer for safety supplies and spill response for the past ten years, so can deal with the Canadian Government on call-ups for those items.

Though shopSafety.ca has been a huge success, it hasn’t come easy. It has taken over ten years just to get some traction, and it is getting harder all the time fighting Staples, Costco & Amazon who are selling the same types of goods. Gerrits states emphatically, “you cannot beat our service though — we’ll work for you 24 hours a day. Our customer service doesn’t close at 7. One of us will always answer the phone.”

Such is life for the small business owner — “we can’t complain, but will anyway” ended Erwin.

If you require PPE supplies from this Richmond business, contact ShopSafety.ca directly at 1-800-465-7672 or visit their website at  https://shopsafety.ca.


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