Making the link

Linen Connect is no stranger to the complications and disruptions affecting the global supply and cost of linen right now.

Richard Yates and Vikas Shah of Linen Connect

Their global knowledge and experience working closely across the whole supply chain puts them in a strong position to navigate customers through these turbulent times. We also thought they’d have some great advice and insight to share so we put some of the burning questions on the hot topic of linen supply to the Linen Connect team. This is what they said …

Q: About the season ahead … What do you suggest to providers about how best to manage linen stocks and supply for the holiday season and months ahead?

Richard: Communication is key; we work with customers ranging from small independent venues through to some of the largest commercial laundry groups and also healthcare providers. In all cases, the most important part of managing linen stocks is good communication, the more we know, the more we can plan for you to ensure that we have the right product ready for your needs.

Vikas: On top of this, we also deploy £millions of our own capital in buying regular lines of stock as frequently as possible to ensure we have capacity when needed.

We know some customers approach this as a bit of a ‘ring around’ near season, and we understand why, but the important thing is to make sure you have a strong relationship with your supplier and work together through these unprecedented times.

Q: About planning … How far ahead should businesses think and plan? Weeks? Months?

Vikas: Depending on your buying volumes, the more planning the better. You will almost certainly get lots of emails right now from rogue suppliers promising faster stocks from typical supply nations, but the reality is that the challenges being faced by the linen supply chain are global – ranging from shipping capacity to cotton and energy. For significant linen spend, you should certainly be planning months in advance to ensure a robust supply chain can be secured giving you the pricing, quality and logistic comfort you need. We have a global logistics partner network, and deep relationships with our supply partners, and are extremely proud of the resilience of our supply chain through these past two-three years in global crises.

Q: About budgeting and costs … What sort of levels of continued increases should businesses budget for? Where can savings be made? Why are businesses reporting that they’re seeing very different quotes from linen suppliers?

Richard: The current headwinds faced by linen supply include (but are not limited to) cotton pricing, energy pricing and global freight prices. Our team not only monitor this daily through our own networks but are in contact with governments and ministries to ensure we have the latest communications around policies that may come into force to alleviate some of these price spikes. Our job is to be open and transparent, where we see increases coming down the line, we will transparently inform our customers, and similarly where prices are easing off.

Vikas: I think certainly customers should expect some price volatility over the next 6-12 months. One thing that has been immensely concerning to see is the amount of suppliers who are coming into the market offering pricing which simply is a nonsense from producers without the commensurate experience in producing high performance textiles.

You have to remember, it doesn’t matter how big you are in the current market, the pricing headwinds are being faced by everyone, and if a product feels too good to be true with price, you can guarantee a major corner will be cut somewhere – be that around supply chain ethics or quality. It is our duty as a supplier to maintain the quality control standards, ethics standards, sustainability standards and supply chain resilience our customers need, and with over 40 years of experience supplying the market, we are very confident in our ability to do this. There are very few producers in the world with the experience in this sector, and so we would urge all customers to exercise caution.

Q: About ethical and socially responsible linen supply… who, if anyone, is producing linen in the UK? Surely that’s a cheaper, and more reliable, option at the moment?

Richard: We own our own CMT (cut, make, trim) unit in Manchester where we produce special sizes, and cuts for customers in healthcare and hospitality, and continue to do so through this period. The UK has manufacturing capacity for this type of work, but sadly, the UK does not have the manufacturing capacity at scale to replace international supply chains.

When it comes to corporate and social responsibility (CSR), this is something all customers should be acutely aware of, and it extends to much more than certifications. As a business, we ensure our supply base meet, and exceed, some of the most rigorous CSR and environmental standards, but we also work closely with them on strategic philanthropy and development activities.

Vikas: As a business, we also engage heavily in philanthropy and development work in the UK and internationally. CSR is also about the ethics of how you do business, and to that extent it includes everything from how you handle the wellbeing of your staff, right through to the timeliness of how you pay your smallest suppliers, and the pressures you may put them under. We have been deeply passionate about this from our inception, from before these concepts were mainstream, and I’m extremely proud of that.

Meet the team

Richard Yates is sales director at Linen Connect and has worked in the laundry industry for 25 years. He started out back in 1997 as a sales executive for Joshua Hoyle Textiles. After progressing through sales roles, he joined Linen Connect in 2008 as sales manager, and then in 2012 was made sales director. After a decade in his current role Richard still enjoys the challenges he faces every single day – just as much now as he did at the beginning of his career. It’s an industry that gets in your blood, he says.

Vikas Shah MBE DL is CEO of Swiscot Group, the Manchester based textiles firm, which includes Linen Connect. He is also a highly regarded and respected speaker and expert on entrepreneurship, business and social issues. Vikas is a nonexecutive board member of the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and he was awarded an MBE for Services to Business and the Economy in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2018 New Year’s Honours List.

About Linen Connect

Linen Connect is a family business that started in 1968. They’re a market leader in the supply of bed, bath, kitchen and table linens to commercial laundries and right across the hospitality and healthcare sectors.

As their name suggests, they connect and link the supply of linen from start to finish, with a strong focus on trading in a manner that is socially, environmentally and ethically responsible, and in a way that engages with the wider community. Their headquarters are based in Manchester where a 15-strong team work across sales, accounts and warehousing. They also have a 60,000 sq ft logistics centre on the outskirts of Manchester. From international shipping lines, to local distribution partners, Linen Connect work closely with their entire logistics chain striving to be on time, every time™ for their customers of all sizes in the UK, Ireland and Continental Europe. They are an ISO:9001 accredited company and take quality extremely seriously. Their in-house quality control laboratory works in partnership with global suppliers and customers to ensure consistency, quality and durability of products.

Linen Connect are headline sponsor of the Laundry and Drycleaning Awards – the LADAs – and have actively supported this key annual industry event for many years.

Linen Connect is no stranger to the complications and disruptions affecting the global supply and cost of linen right now.

Richard Yates and Vikas Shah of Linen Connect

Their global knowledge and experience working closely across the whole supply chain puts them in a strong position to navigate customers through these turbulent times. We also thought they’d have some great advice and insight to share so we put some of the burning questions on the hot topic of linen supply to the Linen Connect team. This is what they said …

Q: About the season ahead … What do you suggest to providers about how best to manage linen stocks and supply for the holiday season and months ahead?

Richard: Communication is key; we work with customers ranging from small independent venues through to some of the largest commercial laundry groups and also healthcare providers. In all cases, the most important part of managing linen stocks is good communication, the more we know, the more we can plan for you to ensure that we have the right product ready for your needs.

Vikas: On top of this, we also deploy £millions of our own capital in buying regular lines of stock as frequently as possible to ensure we have capacity when needed.

We know some customers approach this as a bit of a ‘ring around’ near season, and we understand why, but the important thing is to make sure you have a strong relationship with your supplier and work together through these unprecedented times.

Q: About planning … How far ahead should businesses think and plan? Weeks? Months?

Vikas: Depending on your buying volumes, the more planning the better. You will almost certainly get lots of emails right now from rogue suppliers promising faster stocks from typical supply nations, but the reality is that the challenges being faced by the linen supply chain are global – ranging from shipping capacity to cotton and energy. For significant linen spend, you should certainly be planning months in advance to ensure a robust supply chain can be secured giving you the pricing, quality and logistic comfort you need. We have a global logistics partner network, and deep relationships with our supply partners, and are extremely proud of the resilience of our supply chain through these past two-three years in global crises.

Q: About budgeting and costs … What sort of levels of continued increases should businesses budget for? Where can savings be made? Why are businesses reporting that they’re seeing very different quotes from linen suppliers?

Richard: The current headwinds faced by linen supply include (but are not limited to) cotton pricing, energy pricing and global freight prices. Our team not only monitor this daily through our own networks but are in contact with governments and ministries to ensure we have the latest communications around policies that may come into force to alleviate some of these price spikes. Our job is to be open and transparent, where we see increases coming down the line, we will transparently inform our customers, and similarly where prices are easing off.

Vikas: I think certainly customers should expect some price volatility over the next 6-12 months. One thing that has been immensely concerning to see is the amount of suppliers who are coming into the market offering pricing which simply is a nonsense from producers without the commensurate experience in producing high performance textiles.

You have to remember, it doesn’t matter how big you are in the current market, the pricing headwinds are being faced by everyone, and if a product feels too good to be true with price, you can guarantee a major corner will be cut somewhere – be that around supply chain ethics or quality. It is our duty as a supplier to maintain the quality control standards, ethics standards, sustainability standards and supply chain resilience our customers need, and with over 40 years of experience supplying the market, we are very confident in our ability to do this. There are very few producers in the world with the experience in this sector, and so we would urge all customers to exercise caution.

Q: About ethical and socially responsible linen supply… who, if anyone, is producing linen in the UK? Surely that’s a cheaper, and more reliable, option at the moment?

Richard: We own our own CMT (cut, make, trim) unit in Manchester where we produce special sizes, and cuts for customers in healthcare and hospitality, and continue to do so through this period. The UK has manufacturing capacity for this type of work, but sadly, the UK does not have the manufacturing capacity at scale to replace international supply chains.

When it comes to corporate and social responsibility (CSR), this is something all customers should be acutely aware of, and it extends to much more than certifications. As a business, we ensure our supply base meet, and exceed, some of the most rigorous CSR and environmental standards, but we also work closely with them on strategic philanthropy and development activities.

Vikas: As a business, we also engage heavily in philanthropy and development work in the UK and internationally. CSR is also about the ethics of how you do business, and to that extent it includes everything from how you handle the wellbeing of your staff, right through to the timeliness of how you pay your smallest suppliers, and the pressures you may put them under. We have been deeply passionate about this from our inception, from before these concepts were mainstream, and I’m extremely proud of that.

Meet the team

Richard Yates is sales director at Linen Connect and has worked in the laundry industry for 25 years. He started out back in 1997 as a sales executive for Joshua Hoyle Textiles. After progressing through sales roles, he joined Linen Connect in 2008 as sales manager, and then in 2012 was made sales director. After a decade in his current role Richard still enjoys the challenges he faces every single day – just as much now as he did at the beginning of his career. It’s an industry that gets in your blood, he says.

Vikas Shah MBE DL is CEO of Swiscot Group, the Manchester based textiles firm, which includes Linen Connect. He is also a highly regarded and respected speaker and expert on entrepreneurship, business and social issues. Vikas is a nonexecutive board member of the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and he was awarded an MBE for Services to Business and the Economy in Her Majesty the Queen’s 2018 New Year’s Honours List.

About Linen Connect

Linen Connect is a family business that started in 1968. They’re a market leader in the supply of bed, bath, kitchen and table linens to commercial laundries and right across the hospitality and healthcare sectors.

As their name suggests, they connect and link the supply of linen from start to finish, with a strong focus on trading in a manner that is socially, environmentally and ethically responsible, and in a way that engages with the wider community. Their headquarters are based in Manchester where a 15-strong team work across sales, accounts and warehousing. They also have a 60,000 sq ft logistics centre on the outskirts of Manchester. From international shipping lines, to local distribution partners, Linen Connect work closely with their entire logistics chain striving to be on time, every time™ for their customers of all sizes in the UK, Ireland and Continental Europe. They are an ISO:9001 accredited company and take quality extremely seriously. Their in-house quality control laboratory works in partnership with global suppliers and customers to ensure consistency, quality and durability of products.

Linen Connect are headline sponsor of the Laundry and Drycleaning Awards – the LADAs – and have actively supported this key annual industry event for many years.

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