A collaborative response to a global pandemic

When the COVID-19 virus was declared a global pandemic, businesses of all sizes from coast-to-coast were faced with difficult decisions. Issues of cash flow, payroll, rent, and how to meet shifting and uncertain customer demand needed to be addressed – and none of us had a playbook for this black swan event. It quickly became clear to all business leaders that the strength of existing supply chains was going to play an important role in dealing with the unexpected.

At McCarthy Uniforms, our team reflected on the situation and evaluated our options. Should we retreat and wait for the recovery? Or could we use our skills and resources to support our communities, even at the expense of profit? As we considered the possibilities, we looked at the situation through the filter of our corporate purpose. Our company has been serving Canadians with uniforms and other accessories for more than 60 years, and we have always been guided by a belief that we exist to help communities work, learn and play together. We have seen firsthand that communities that are made stronger by uniforms and the sense of shared values and purpose they create. We knew our pride in creating strong communities was made possible by our existing supply chain partners, who have always played a critical role in ensuring we can meet – and exceed – our customers’ expectations.
On the weekend of March 13, just prior to the official national lockdown, our team spent hours brainstorming and ideating, motivated by a common goal and passion to help our communities and our country. By the end of the weekend we had decided to focus our operations and efforts on two things – helping our customers and the communities we serve survive the crisis, and revisioning our business to help our customers post-crisis.

We immediately identified our strong supply chain relationships as a differentiator that would allow us to succeed. Our team takes great pride in our ability to procure, receive and distribute goods at scale for complex public and corporate organizations. Developing and honing those critical relationships has always been one of the things we do best.

We began leveraging our supply chain to produce and purchase critical personal protective equipment (PPE) including masks, gowns, sanitizers and medical grade scrubs. Our strong customer relationships meant we knew these items would be in-demand, which allowed us to begin the procurement process early on. Our strong global supplier relationships also meant that we could secure the PPE in the quality and quantity we needed, which is above standard for those leveraging a global supply chain network during COVID-19.

Since March, I am proud to say that we have connected front line workers with more than 200,000 units of PPE, while launching an e-commerce portal for direct-to-customer PPE orders and contributing to province-wide efforts to keep essential workers safe. Our efforts can’t and won’t stop there, however. As the pandemic continues, so to does the need for PPE.

Throughout it all, we’ve prioritized planning for what the world will look like post-crisis. We know our post-pandemic reality will be a new normal, and that we’ll have to innovate, evolve and change in order to thrive after the worst of COVID-19 has passed. We also know that our supply chain partners will be there with us every step of the way.

We’ve already begun making significant changes. McCarthy Uniforms is investing heavily in building and maintaining an inventory of PPE so that we can continue to meet the demands of workers and students prioritizing safety as we slowly return to work and school. We are innovating and evolving our distribution channels to allow for curb-side pick-up and a simplified online experience for our school uniform customers. We also continue to serve our significant workplace segment including public sector employees across healthcare and education, and private sector workers in a wide range of industries from construction to retail to food services to logistics.

As we collectively fight this global pandemic, our team has been inspired by the number of organizations that have stepped up to make a lasting difference by providing PPE to those in need. Those people and organizations are helping to save lives and ensure front line workers can safely go home to their families at the end of the day, and McCarthy Uniforms is proud to be playing a role in those efforts. It has galvanized our team around a common purpose during a difficult time and has demonstrated to our customers and communities that when they are in need, we will go the extra mile. Just like our supply chain partners.

Vanessa Iarocci is president of McCarthy Uniforms.