Long-standing family business West Midlands Metals was forced to close its doors for the first time in 40 years during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The company, which is owned and run by Phil Carver and his uncle John Trayers, is based on the main A45 route into Birmingham City Centre. His grandfather set up the business in the late 1970s and it has since become one of the city’s leading scrap metal yards. Phil took on the business in 2013 and has built on the strong relationships with local tradesmen and contractors that his grandfather established, to maintain the company’s reputation for excellent service.
Up until March, West Midlands Metals had only ever shut over the Christmas holidays, but when the nationwide lockdown was announced, Phil was forced to close the doors to the yard for three weeks. He said: “It’s the first time in our history that we’ve been shut for such a long time. We’re a very specialised business and one of the only non-ferrous scrapyards in Birmingham, which means we deal with non-iron based metals, like aluminium, lead and copper. We reopened with reduced opening hours at the end of April and while we’ve had customers through the doors, business has been much quieter than usual.”
The company offers a range of services including professional scrap brokerage, scrap sorting and classification and metal recycling. The team works with engineering companies, fabricators, contractors and individual, independent tradesmen, including plumbers, electricians and roofers, taking unwanted scrap metal and either recycling or selling it on. Phil said: “A lot of the tradesmen that regularly come in haven’t been working because of the lockdown rules, so things have slowed up a lot. We’ve been running a local advertising campaign and we’ve been doing a lot on social media to try to get through this quieter time, and we’ve already seen some new customers coming in. But we’re running reduced opening hours at the moment because custom is much patchier than we’d normally expect to be. Some of the bigger yards have been opening up their margins and dropping prices, but as a smaller specialist yard that’s not really an option for us and we’re relying on our advertising campaigns and our good reputation locally to keep people coming through our doors.”
One of the benefits of the railway arches that West Midlands Metals trade out of is their prime location on the main route in and out of the city. Phil said: “The space is very flexible and easy to work from. The main road runs right down the outside of our arches and yard, so we’re very easy to see and it makes it easier to bring in customers. We’re really grateful for the financial support we received through the landlord’s rent free offer and the small business grant that we applied for through the council, which meant we had one less thing to worry about while we weren’t doing any trade.
“We’re still only at about 50 per cent of the custom we were seeing before. It’s the biggest drop off we’ve ever seen in our 40 years of trading – even worse than the recessions and economic troubles we’ve been through. We’re slowly trying to get back to where we used to be and hoping that we won’t have to go through another lockdown. We’re grateful for the support we’ve had, and we hope that local traders will continue to support us and come back to us for all of their scrap metal needs over the next few months.”
11-12 The Arches, Lawden Road, Birmingham