Vikas Shah comments on ‘dramatic change’, ‘innovative new practices’ in the face of Covid-19

7 October 2020

LCN caught up with Vikas Shah MBE, managing director and CEO of the Swiscot Group which owns Linen Connect, one of the UK's largest suppliers of bed, bath, kitchen and table linens to commercial markets, for his views on the changes and challenges wrought by the Coronavirus pandemic.

Vikas Shah writes: “The Covid-19 pandemic has caused a dramatic change in the relationship between the end-user (whether they are customers or patients), and the service-provider (whether that is a hospitality, or a healthcare setting). For at least the foreseeable future, the mantra of ‘hands, face, space’ will be the norm as we all play a part in controlling the spread of the virus, protecting each-other.

“The hospitality sector has adapted in really innovative ways. Through our customer base we see venues which have been able to integrate distancing and cleaning requirements into their offering without dramatically impacting customer experience. We’re also seeing consistent demand for table-linens and napkins as venues realise that not only is cleaning of surfaces important, but that laundry processes ensure that napkins and table linens are also a great way to not just make your venue look great, and to give an excellent customer experience, but also to act as another barrier between customer and surfaces.

“It’s important that venues do communicate this to the customer, as it can seem somewhat counter-intuitive, but is an important point. We’re also seeing growing demand from some segments of the accommodation sector as more people have elected to take breaks in the UK. The major cities are still low on demand, but we do also expect this to increase. We are also seeing many customers across the board take-advantage of composite orders from us, taking not just linens, but also PPE (masks) to ensure their staff have the best protection they can.

“Our industry body, the Textile Services Association (TSA) has been doing excellent work since the start of the pandemic, representing the linen services industry to Government and ensuring that we (as a sector) have the voice and support we need to continue to be the backbone of so much of the UK. From hospitals to hospitality, without a well-functioning linen supply chain, things simply cannot operate.  The TSA has also acted as a point of collaboration on developing new methods and standards for protection and hygiene across the sector.

Cross-sector, the Government has done as much as it reasonably can to support; and while there are clearly gaps and criticisms, we are glad that overall there seems to be a good line of communication between Government and industry.

“Our team continues to work hard to drive sales and – importantly – help customers with payment plans, credit and offers to ensure that they can get open and get operating to start their own recovery. The hospitality sector has been hit hard, and without sounding overly pessimistic, it’s sensible to expect some more hard months to come before that ‘V’ or ‘L’ shaped recovery as the market returns to a more ‘normal’ function.

“Our buying and logistics team is also working extremely closely through our own international supply chain to optimise pricing to make sure that not only do we have the right stock at the right time, but at a price to help the market get operating. 

“Things will never get back to the same normal we had before, but hopefully the post-Covid normality will be safer, more productive and still filled with growth and opportunity for all of us.”

Read more from linen suppliers  in the October issue of LCN, out now, on how  linen suppliers are more than holding their own as they innovate and adapt to serve all sectors of the textile care industry.

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