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EXCLUSIVE Veitchi Flooring MD: We need to prepare for an economic storm

In an exclusive interview to be published in CFJ September with VEITCHI FLOORING’s MD, John Brown, he warns that the end of the furlough scheme at the end of September, rising inflation and the inevitable comedown of GDP, could provide the ingredients for an economic storm

In the wide-ranging interview, which is published next month in our new Thought Leadership section, his views on the unpredictability of the economy will cause many to take note. ‘The biggest issue facing Veitchi is continued uncertainty in the market, and our opinion is we’re experiencing the beginning of a boom. But need to ensure the boom doesn’t go too high, because the higher it goes, the further it will fall. We need to understand the profile of the boom, so we can prepare for the drop when it comes, if it comes. The better we can tail off and keep everything going, the less we have to worry going down that way.’

Another potential problem is exactly how the end of the furlough scheme will affect the economy. ‘While it’s fantastic government is providing financial support for every sector of business, until the support stops, we don’t have a true representation of the effects of Covid-19 on industry,’ John tells CFJ. ‘We need to understand the mechanism for exiting that period of support and how we’re going to navigate post-government support because at that point we’ll have a true and accurate picture of how industry is operating and that – for me – is the area on which we’ll need to concentrate.’

John also explains how Veitchi Flooring found a London-based company, Pristine Condition, to ensure his floorlayers were fit enough to deal with the physical pressures of floorlaying.

The founder and chief executive, Davy Snowdon MBE, previously a conditioning expert for the Olympics Federation covering all sports for two Olympic Games, created a bespoke training course for Veitchi operatives in an attempt to protect their backs and knees.

‘It involved situations relevant to the flooring industry such as carrying rolls of vinyl and bags of this-and-that. The guys did the course and now when I visit them onsite they always say the changes Pristine Condition inspired were very simple yet very necessary. They were needed.’

The company is going ‘great guns’ in its drive for apprentices, John tells CFJ. ‘In flooring we have seven different apprentices at varying degrees as they go through their education. This year, a further five join the group, specifically in flooring. If you look at Veitchi as a larger group we have 28 apprentices and there’s a further 18 coming in this year, a huge investment over the next five years.’

In fact, it was a Veitchi apprentice – 24-year-old Jack Grey – who won the Apprentice of the Year (AOTY) competition this year.

John warns about the abuse of government’s grant scheme, which entitled employers to a £5,000 grant per head for apprentices that were taken on. The condition was that they must hold the apprenticeship for a year. But it’s clear, says John, that the system is being abused.

‘Unscrupulous employers take on apprentices to gain the grant, then a year later get rid of them. That will create the industry’s next problem unless we can tackle it.’

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