An Exclusive Interview with the head of VEKA PLC on dealing with the effects of COVID-19, making difficult but necessary decisions and focusing on TRUSTED fabricator customers.
Ed Dave Jones, you recently remarked about Covid-19 being responsible for a lot of the downturn but, with the exception of two months written off, the trade is coming back nicely. Presumably you were being diplomatic at the time and the real issue for VEKA plc is the financial impact of the demise of Customade Group and Sash UK?
DJ: I think it’s fair to say that 2 months out of a 12-month calendar is going to impact the annual budget significantly and even now we are not seeing sales that compensate for the lost months. That said, we issued the statement when it became clear that one customer, SASH UK was entering into Administration, and were aware of the difficulties Customade Group were in.
Had we only to account for the effect of the COVID-19 Lockdown, VEKA PLC would have been well-equipped and resourced to weather the storm without resorting to potential redundancies.
But, in order to remain strong financially and stable as a company, as both a member of the VEKA Group and as a standalone business, we must respond appropriately to the changes in our business circumstances.
I will, however, take this opportunity to assure our existing customers and all members of the larger VEKA community, that as we rescale our business to match customer demand, we will endeavour to deliver against our strong OTIF measures and service levels
Ed VEKA within the UK will surely be supported by the parent company in re-establishing itself?
DJ: We are fortunate to be part of the broader VEKA Group who have been supportive in all our efforts to ensure we have sufficient financial support to cover the impact of lockdown and the inevitable phased return to support our customers as they returned. That said, we are charged to run an efficient and profitable business and as such, that is why we have had to announce potential redundancies to reflect the losses of two significant customers.
Ed Are you able to say at what level you are now at in production terms?
DJ: Yes, we are currently operating at ca 75% of the business compared to the same time last year.
Ed You are getting a lot of support around the trade. Can that translate into additional business for VEKA?
DJ: VEKA has always acted responsibly and with integrity; in fact our VEKA SPIRIT (Success, Pride, Improvement, Responsible, Integrity & Team) values incorporate these and ultimately, we illustrate these by how we conduct ourselves as a business.
That said, I have a responsibility as Managing Director of VEKA PLC to protect the long-term future of the business. As such, I will take the actions required to secure the longevity and future success of VEKA and will continue to drive profitable growth to ensure we are here for now, for the future, for life – for our people, customers and suppliers alike. It is more important than ever that as a business we manage risk by working closely with our fabricators, to develop and maintain profitable partnerships.
After all, VEKA has an industry-leading product range across two main brands, an ongoing innovation programme that saw us launch SPECTRAL and our new Imagine VS system within the past 18 months. We have enviable service levels and customer support through to and including installers with both our Installer Programme and our coveted Independent Network. All this combined continues to ensure that we remain highly competitive and are the reasons that companies join VEKA for the long-term.
Ed VEKA is an important employer in Burnley. Are you concerned about the effect on the town?
DJ: VEKA PLC is a major employer in Burnley and as such any negative impact on employment will be felt. However, overall, we have brought many jobs to the area and that will continue, in time, to grow again.
Ed There is considerable unrest in the industry at the decision to pre-pack Customade. What are your thoughts on how this has been managed?
DJ: I will not comment on this, only on the effects on our business, our partners and our people. In that respect I will reiterate my assurance that our priority is to ensure that it is business as usual for our valued customers and their customers, that we will work hard to minimise the impact on our staff and their families and that we will continue to grow our business as closely as possible to the strategies that we have in place.
I would like to add that we appreciate the support that we have received from all corners of the industry as well as the support we’ve received from our own people in what continues to be tough and unpredictable times.
Ed Finally, I imagine that the failures of Customade’s Halifax and Livingston plants and Sash UK, have left a lot of VEKA installers without a supplier? What will happen to them?
DJ: We have a large nationwide network of trusted fabricators who have stepped into the breech since those companies failed, minimising disruption. Any companies looking for dependable VEKA or Halo fabricators should get in touch. The VEKA family is just that and we look after our own.
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