UPDATED REPORT: The Textile Services Association (TSA) National Congress at the Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club in the West Midlands (10 November), saw the TSA bring together the senior decision makers from within the industry. The event was targeted at the owners, CEOs and senior directors of the association’s membership. TSA National Congress, a smaller, more condensed event than September’s TSA Autumn Conference with high quality papers on industry themes, brought in onetime Conservative MP and now celebrity train traveller, Michael Portillo as keynote speaker.
TOP TRIO: Photograph shows Michael Portillo is pictured with TSA CEO David Stevens (centre) and chair Charlie Betteridge (right)
The morning’s work commenced with a welcome from TSA Chairperson Charlie Betteridge before handing over to TSA CEO David Stevens who thanked loyal TSA sponsors and outlined the bones of the day’s business. He joked that alcohol was being provided on the tables during the session, but obviously, in these Covid-19 times in the form of hand sanitiser.
Moving swiftly on, Stevens introduced TSA’s Emma Andersson who updated the room on ongoing work with the TSA’s Laundry Cost Index. “We have had many discussions with members, the board, and our cost index experts Simon Fry and Scott Inglis due to the high-cost pressures the industry is currently facing. First of all, the latest cost index for Quarter 2 is up and has been published on our website. It shows an annual increase of almost 6% in comparison to the previous index which was 3.26%. However, this is still not as high as you may be experiencing,” said Andersson.
“To tackle this, our accountants carried out an anonymous wage survey as the current cost index only tracks National Living Wage. We had a great response rate of 86% based on membership turnover.The results from the survey, looking at October 2020 to October 2021, as anticipated, we saw some larger increases for example: 25% for drivers and 14% for production.
“This resulted in an overall average increase of 14.25% for labour. “Looking at this increase in labour and adding this in alone into the current cost index pushes the annual increase of the cost index into double digits This is without other costs like textiles, energy and diesel for example, as well as insurance and pensions.
“It has been agreed to keep the cost index as it is, it has stood the test of time and is credible. Therefore, to communicate not only the increases in labour but also the other costs we have created a stronger bulletin to sit alongside the cost index,” said Andersson
Stevens then ask Shyju Skariah to update the delegates on the current work streams the TSA are currently undertaking. These included the work of the Health and Safety Steering group who have now gathered over four years data which was presented. He then presented the work from the newly formed Sustainability Steering Group.
Skariah commented: “Our industry is already circular and this group will make a real difference with the focus it will bring, our End of Life Textile Scheme is a great example of this.”
Andersson then updated on the work the Women in the Industry Initiative has done including promoting individual success stories of employees from the member companies. “It’s lovely to highlight what a great career our industry can offer people of all genders and backgrounds but we also know we need to do more which is why we are conducting our culture and inclusion survey.”
A hospitality panel with big name hotel operators and trade association UK Hospitality discussed the recent partnership with TSA and also the current market situation. The panel comprised of Jim Cathcart UK Hospitality (UKH); Andy Townsend, Legacy Hotels and Resorts; and John Angus, Staywell UK. The discussion was frank and free to say the least.
Townsend said: “Legacy’s procedures [re laundry] probably do need addressing and we should all be working better together, Cathcart replied: “On financial support, furlough scheme, rents moratorium – that financial element gave us as good a chance as possible to survive Covid. He added that because UKH did a lot of successful lobbying on VAT in the previous two years “debt loans would have been worse and there would have been more delinquent loans”.
Stevens asked if the industry and hoteliers could have worked together better over the crisis? “We need to have the dialogue, and no point scoring but I think communication could have been better,” said Townsend.
The next question was, whether the industry is fully open? “The doors are open, we are staffed to some extent but that does not mean full occupancy,” John Angus said.
According to Townsend: “We are all in the same shit as you guys. In April/May we saw a small pace of pick up; for example, Cornwall was great, Sheffield not so much. July/August the pace of pick up was much greater but the problem was the short mobilisation period, an average of 10 days from booking to arrival and on top of that we were low on pricing. That normalised when we took issue on rates. However we were not delivering value for money. And that was across all leisure...”.
He went on to explain that for events and banqueting, currently and going forward “70% of weddings had already moved…and weren’t there to be taken. Effectively some bookings have moved into next year. This year was limited for weddings, thank God as we didn’t have the staff. Next year will be very very busy…. For 2023 enquiries should be happening now but that is not the case. I reckon there will be a bit of a drop off.”
Looking forward, Stevens asked about new build hotels: “There are rumours that there will be a record number of rooms over the next three years, is this true? We need to know to ensure capacity is created.”
Angus said there is lots of finance in this sector currently and expects to see rapid growth. “There is uncertainty in the property market post Covid so investment funds and wealthy owners are eyeing up office blocks which can potentially be converted into hotels. For example, a BHS store closed for over a year is a perfect location for us.” All in all he reckoned, “the laundry industry should be confident”.
Delegates were given the opportunity of seeing the economic outlook through the eyes of Martin Sartorius, principal economist from the CBI and then it was time for an update on the Global Impact of TSA Research Project, with Professor Katie Laird, Dr Lucy Owen from De Montfort University and Simon Fry, Micronclean chairman. The TSA sponsored research with international backing from global trade associations, continues to delve into best practice that would facilitate chemical disinfection at low temperature washing. Results so far are promising, said Professor Laird, “but the findings need to be peer reviewed before they can be released and academia does not move fast.” Watch this space.
The final paper left the conference on a high. Stevens introduced the final speaker Martin Roach and Adrian Walcott from Brands with Value and explained why they had been appointed to conduct the industry’s first ever Inclusion and Diversity Survey. Measuring diversity is important but inclusion and belonging is even more important, said Roach who declared the survey will give an industry a line in the sand. “So far, 200 replies have been received but we want to get to over 500 before we produce the report,” Roach said. Stevens then presented the media pack which laundries can use to encourage employees to take part.The Congress wrapped up with an industry dinner and entertainment. All attendees felt it had been an excellent Congress and particularly enjoyed meeting up with colleagues and delegates.