I thought that when writing my January edition of my Page 3 editorial we would be able to leave 2021 behind us and focus on the future. No mention of pandemics or political misdeeds, just positivity about what 2022 holds for us. How wrong was I! Just like waiting for London buses, sure enough another raft of Covid variants and political transgressions all come along at the same time. Now we have Omicron although, from my school days, we seem to have missed a chunk of the Greek alphabet and jumped 10 perfectly good names, so goodness knows what the next variant will be called. And, of course, our elected parliamentary members are carrying on feathering their nests, ignoring their own rules and having a good time at our expense. It really does seem that it’s open season to do pretty much whatever you like if you can claim to be a politician of some sort, whereas as a member of the public you will be jumped on for flouting the rules and be made to pay for it, dearly.
Part of the problem appears to be the interpretation of the rules. In years gone by it seemed easier: ‘Thou shalt not…’ was pretty unambiguous. I have spoken with a number of industry stalwarts recently about whether they shut up shop at the first lockdown and, if so, how everything went when they restarted. One fabricator told the story of how, when the 80% furlough was on offer, half his people on the shopfloor took it as an opportunity for a pretty well paid holiday and opted to stay at home while the others carried on. Indeed, one of those furloughed sought to cause problems by getting a friend, who happened to be a local plod, to call the owner and instructed him to close down immediately or he would come down to the factory and arrest him. As it happened, the owner contacted another policeman and asked if what he had been told was right? No, came the reply, the plod had no right of arrest and should never have contacted the owner and, if he liked, he could report the incident and the plod would be disciplined. Very decently the owner declined this opportunity and no more was heard about it.
It seems that those in so-called responsible positions can make up their own rules much like Michael Masi who contrived, allegedly, to bend the rules to ensure that Lewis Hamilton failed to gain his record-breaking 8th Formula One World Championship. You can tell, I’m sure, that I’m not over keen on unfairness whether in the workplace or anywhere else in life!
I would plead that 2022 sees a return to honest endeavour and fair reward for all. Although many are looking at 2022 as a follow on to the boom times that we have enjoyed in our industry, others are, I think, being more realistic. The economy, generally, is in pretty good shape but price rises across the board will affect us all in some shape or form. We need to remember who are buying our windows, doors, bi-folds, lift ‘n’ slides, roofs et al. Most people recognise the acceleration in house building as undoubtedly helping the boom but, when it comes to replacement windows and doors, and home improvements such as orangeries and conservatories, I suspect an analysis would show that the older age group with equity in their homes and savings in the bank are fuelling it just as much. Of course, low interest rates are helping the family improve their homes but with a rapid rise in inflation and interest rates on the climb, this may well slow that down. Similarly, if interest rates increase those with savings may choose to sit on them and see them gain back what has been lost in recent years. The removal of the triple lock for us poor old pensioners such that we lose in real value terms will make us all consider whether to splash the cash in 2022.
Again, talking around the trade, while most are not despondent about the future, many see 2022 as being a return to normal business and therefore a return to competing for the business available. What is important is maintaining the margin that is now being enjoyed and recognising that despite constant raw material price increases the buying public is not particularly phased by price increases to the end-user of around 10%. We offer quality products at very attractive prices – I trust I shan’t be writing this time next year about 2022 becoming yet another year of racing to the bottom on price.
Happy New Year: and let’s make it a Prosperous New Year for us all!