NEWS | Round-up

KBB businesses give back millions in furlough payments

WICKES, TOOLSTATION and Victorian Plumbing have all announced plans to pay back millions of pounds to the Government for furlough payments they received during the first lockdown.

Howdens also announced at the start of November that it would repay £22 million after it saw profits rise thanks to an increase in consumer spending on home improvements. Travis Perkins, which owns Wickes

and Toolstation, will give back a total of £50 million that it received in business rates relief and furlough payments. The retail arm of Travis Perkins had a strong October and November and benefited from the surge of DIY projects in the UK. That sector had like-for-like sales up by 13.7%

compared with 2019 and the group overall saw sales increase by 8.6%. Victorian Plumbing said it plans to


all the money it received in furlough payments. It said that it was able to do this thanks to a successful year and because it wanted to “support the Government and their efforts in aiding the country’s recovery”. The Merseyside-based bathroom retailer saw no other choice than to put its staff on furlough in March at the start of the first lockdown, but was able to bring staff back by implementing social distancing measures once the lockdown was relaxed.

Chairman of Victorian Plumbing, Mark Radcliffe (pictured), said: “We have just completed a very successful year and now that we have more of an understanding of the impact of Covid,

Save Our Skills – two-thirds of candidates find new roles

TWO-THIRDS of job seekers who have come through kbbreview’s Save Our Skills initia- tive have found new roles. The campaign began back in the summer at the height of the first lockdown and a wave of redundancies hit the industry thanks to the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Kbbreview decided that, as the KBB

industry’s leading business title, it needed to do what it could to try and stop the industry losing the knowledge and experience of those being made redundant.

At its core is a regular email that showcases the skills and know-how of the candidates taking part.

A series of dedicated Save Our Skills episodes of The kbbreview Podcast also

continues, looking at

hints, tips and advice for job seekers in the KBB industry.

“The kbbreview Save Our Skills campaign came from the first lockdown and it started as a very black and white response to what was happening,” said kbbreview editor Rebecca Nottingham. “But it has

become so much more than that. It represents how the industry has looked after its own where it can during this unprecedented time. “To know so many people now have

new roles and a new start is so heart- warming, so well done to everyone.” The Save Our Skills scheme, which

is sponsored by Quooker, has seen nearly 70 people take part since its launch and, so far, two-thirds of them have secured new roles. Chris Seymour, who started as a senior designer at InStil Design in Oxford, said: “The Save Our Skills campaign is a fantastic initiative. I was employed as a direct result of it and couldn’t be happier.” Sales manager Jim Watson also found a new role through Save Our Skills: “After being made redundant in early March then going straight into lockdown, things didn’t look too positive for a, shall we say, mature sales manager. But with all credit to this fantastic initiative, I have accepted a senior role with Avanti Kitchens running their Scottish operation. This came directly from Save Our Skills, so keep the faith everyone.”

Not all Save Our skills candidates

have found new roles directly through the campaign, but many have said that it gave them confidence and hope during a very difficult time. Former specifications manager Shaun Payne said: “I’m about to start a new role and, though it’s not come directly through Save Our Skills, I cannot thank you enough for your support. It gave me back the feeling that I had not been simply cast adrift.”


Kitchen specialist hands over ownership to its employees

SCOTTISH BULTHAUP retailer Cameron Interiors has given ownership of its business to its employees.

Said to be one of the first employee-owned companies of its type in the UK, Cameron Interiors operates two showrooms in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Since 1997, it has been run by MD Kirsten Robeson and her husband Ian (pictured centre), who took over from founder Leonard Cameron, who started the business in 1979. The high-end retailer said it had been considering a trade sale, but rejected the

idea and chose instead to “entrust and empower” its dedicated team of 12, some of whom have been with the business for 40 years.

Said MD Kirsten of the decision: “This is my chance to ‘pay it forward’ to a brilliant team that have enabled us to cement our position in the market and allow us all to look forward to a bright future. Designing kitchens at this upper end of the market is a deeply personal process and the people and the service are as essential as the unwavering quality of the product. “The notion of selling to a trade buyer was a non-starter, as so much would be put at risk. When I found out about employee ownership I was intrigued.” She was told out about the employee ownership option by the business’s accountants Consilium CA, which guided the company through the process. All shares in Cameron Interiors have been placed into an Employee Ownership

Trust with all staff immediately becoming beneficiaries. In time, they will also benefit from an annual share of any profits.

Kirsten will remain as MD for the medium term to support and advise the business, but ultimately intends to retire with husband Ian to spend more time with family. She will also take a seat on the board along with Edinburgh showroom manager Louise Delaney. Aileen Wilson will remain as manager at the Glasgow store, having played an important part in the management team.

· January 2021

we felt it right to review the support we received in the early part of the year, and we have made the decision to repay this in full. We hope this sets an example for

other businesses that

have been lucky enough to continue trading during the pandemic.” Radcliffe added: “We unfortunately had to furlough a number of our staff, purely based on the fact we could not house them safely within our office space. This wasn’t a decision we wanted to make, but the health of our employees has remained at the forefront over the the last year. “Once the Government published

the Covid-safe guidelines, we invested heavily in creating space to be able to bring people back to work with all social distancing guidelines followed.” Victorian Plumbing announced

record-breaking sales for the year to September – up 37% to £207 million, as well as a huge recruitment drive in September as the company continues to grow both in profit and staff. Radcliffe continued: “Following a difficult few months in 2020, we’re thrilled to announce that we’re on the hunt for some new talent to join the team. We’re really excited to extend the Victorian Plumbing family and be in a strong position moving into 2021.”

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