The road ahead24 February 2021
LCN catches up with a trio of linen suppliers to find out how they are negotiating around the obstacles of Covid-19 and leaving the EU to find they have their eyes firmly on their ultimate destination – recovery
Catherine Morris, managing director, Trade Linens
The very late announcement of an EU-UK trade agreement left businesses with very little time to scrutinise the detail, digest the implications and prepare their operations at a time when many businesses were operating with reduced staffing levels and increased Christmas demand.
To avoid as much disruption as possible we have been working hard with our transport network teams who have been an invaluable source of information and guidance. Anyone needing to receive goods imported from the UK and Ireland to Europe must have an EORI number ready for the documentation.
During December, we supported our affected customers by making sure they knew how to comply with the new rules, including the EORI number, when they were ready to order. Our aim was to make the transition as smooth as possible for them, but with ongoing backlog at the ports expected due to both Covid-19 and Brexit we’re urging customers to be patient and keep in touch, so we can help plan their deliveries.
Robert Lancaster-Gay, founder of Trade Linens hs been very vocal in his support for the hospitlaity industry and Morris backs his call for a dedicated Hospitality Mnister. It is no secret the hospitality industry is a major contributing driver to the British economy, and it is overdue a real voice in Parliament. We’ve been very vocal in our support of the Seat at the Table campaign, led by our longstanding client Robin Hutson, founder of The Pig hotels. All suppliers working into the hospitality sector, from the people who are making the beds at some of the world’s leading hotels in the UK, to those serving you coffee, need to be heard, protected and further supported.
Tradelinens, has been developing some exciting new products for clients looking to stand out from the crowd when the staycation market booms and UK hospitality has the opportunity to entice the avid foreign-holiday lover for a safe and luxury getaway.
During the first lockdown, we swiftly diversified through our sister company Tonrose, into healthcare linen and supplied over 30,000 scrub suits and 20,000 patient gowns for the NHS. These had to be meticulously sourced to healthcare providers standards, while maintaining strict deadlines.
The market after lockdown
Hopefully restrictions will start to ease around Easter when the weather starts to improve and people have a spring in their step. We anticipate an extremely high demand for UK staycations, especially those outside of big urban centres, along with an increase in minibreaks in properties which can accommodate multiple families who are coming together perhaps for the first time in over a year.
Vaccine rollout is making recovery something we can actually talk about. There is a tentative optimism in the air! We believe that by working together with our partners, there can be a safe return to luxury getaways. Confidence from the international traveller both for business and pleasure will also be key to the swift recovery we’re all hoping for.
Ashraf Said, managing director, Linen Supply Group
We’ve encountered a few initial delays following our exit from the E.U. but things have settled down now. We don’t anticipate any major problems going forward now that a trade deal is in place. I believe that a’ no deal ‘would have created a great deal of uncertainty and would have resulted in major cost increases if tariffs had been imposed.
Like other businesses, the furlough scheme has been very helpful in supporting our business throughout this difficult time. As a major supplier to hospitality industry, we have been adversely affected by the downturn in this sector. It is an incredibly important part of the economy and one which has not had the formal recognition it needs in Westminster. A Hospitality Minister would certainly shine a light on the challenges and issues facing businesses involved in this sector.
The Linen Supply Group had already started to develop products in the retail sector, launching Mediterranean Linens as a luxury Egyptian cotton bedlinen brand via a newly created online retail platform. We have seen the benefit from the general upturn in online business, particularly during the initial lockdown. The plan is to continue to expand the range and develop a separate offer to sell directly to retailers.
We are also looking to expand our linen offer in the healthcare sector.
The market after lockdown
We are not anticipating a major upturn in business in 2021. Recovery will be slow, particularly in the hospitality sector where there is still uncertainty with regards to when things will start to reopen. It may take until 2022 until we see a return to normality.
The vaccine is the light at the end of the tunnel but until the vaccination process is completed it’s difficult to say when we can all plan for life after Covid.
Laurie Thomas, managing director, Vision Linens
Brexit hasn’t caused any problems to Vision. With the Vision overseas sourcing offices based in Chain, Pakistan and India, rather than Europe, there is no change with importing goods into the UK. There is however delays at UK ports caused by congestion, which is affecting all industries. Vision has worked hard to put steps into place to help manage the situation. With a vast overseas network of distribution and handling agent, it is much easier to minimise such disruptions.
Vision has found itself in a fortunate position having remained open for business throughout the pandemic. They are proud to have supported the NHS through the commercial laundries, and the MOJ and MOD with their textile needs. However, it has been hard to watch many within the hospitality and laundry market struggle without the same government support which many other industries have received. As a key supply chain, and one which generates so much in revenue and taxation, Vision fully supports the need for the creation of a Hospitality Minister and will continue to support the industry in this quest.
Vision’s parent company, WestPoint Group, were quick to diversify production at their Bahrain textile factory to rapidly produce Martex Health cloth face masks for frontline and essential workers last spring to help in the fight against COVID-19. Following supply to key workers, Vision then took to supping these premium face masks to the hospitality industry as soon as it started to open back up again. The masks are reusable and washable, designed for everyday use, with an inner filter layer and added antimicrobial technology, and are available on the Vision Linens website.
Vision has also extended its medical textile offer now compiled of scrub suits, patient gowns and night wear as well as a choice of face mask styles.
During the Coronavirus pandemic, the huge increase in demand for face masks, scrubs and patient gowns was not able to be met by regular suppliers. With Vision’s expertise in the sourcing and distribution of textiles, it made perfect sense for Vision to source and supply these items to the market, as can be seen in the illustration , left.
The market after lockdown
For the hospitality industry, Vision predicts a slow gradual build up after April. It is likely to have a similar performance to last year, but we are hoping for a much better end to the year. If we’ve learnt anything, the boutique and bespoke accommodation properties and rural locations will come out on top. The staycation trend will no doubt surge again when we exit the lockdown once again.