Report: TSA Spring Conference

Report: TSA Spring Conference

The TSA’s Spring Conference 2022 was held at the Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel in Birmingham

There was a definite spring in the steps from start to finish of many delegates attending the Textile Services Association’s (TSA) 2022 Spring Conference – the body’s first major gathering in two years since the pandemic halted such face-to-face events. However, even with athletics legend Linford Christie OBE providing undoubted inspiration as the closing keynote speaker, TSA leaders were realistic that the industry must dig in for a gruelling marathon rather than a sprint back to what had been ‘normal service’.

Thankfully, the conference setting in sunshine at Birmingham’s Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel, coupled with a programme designed to both entertain and provide a welcome platform to share knowledge, ensured those attending could return to their businesses with spirits uplifted, ready for the challenges ahead. In their opening remarks TSA chairman Charlie Betteridge and CEO David Stevens highlighted some of the difficulties that need to be overcome, with uncertainty a big factor. Challenges included labour shortages, worse in some regions, exacerbated by the Omicron variant, which while milder than the earlier waves of Covid, has proved to be very contagious. Betteridge said: “It’s really difficult to get people to work in laundries. In some areas businesses cannot run a second shift as there are not enough people.”

And even those with fewer staffing issues shared another challenge – being able to plan ahead with confidence as major customers, particularly in hospitality, were themselves unsure how much work they would produce and unable to make reliable predictions. “This year, UKHospitality says it just doesn’t know how many bookings it will take,” Betteridge pointed out. “People may be planning to holiday out of the country; some cannot afford holidays at all because of the cost of food, energy and so on. So, we just don’t know what to expect.” A glimmer of hope was spotted here though as hotel owners scrutinised every area of their own operations in the search for future resilience. “We are beginning to hear from large hotel groups that finally, laundries are being seen in a different light. They are beginning to ask: ‘Have I got a laundry partner that can see me through?’” Reliability of linen supply had become more important than price.

He also highlighted a matter we’ve given much attention to in Laundry & Cleaning Today – the extraordinary pressure on, and price rises in – the global supply chain. Getting goods from China became almost impossible, alongside severe shortages in commodities including cotton, steel, electronic and equipment parts as the pandemic spread, and today the cost of pallets and containers remains at an all-time high.

“It’s difficult, and I think it’s going to be difficult for at least the next few months,” he concluded. Stevens said the energy crisis had now added to the difficulties laundries were still trying to tackle, but perhaps a sign that some things do change for the better is that he was able to welcome delegates and guests who just a year ago could not have been present at such an event. They included Daniel Kärrholt from Tvatteriforbundet, the Swedish TSA, Linda McCurdy and Sean Curtis from K-Bro in Canada and Andrew Robson and Callen O’Brien from SPL, a major supplier of commercial laundry services across Australia. Robson later took to the stage to provide a fascinating insight into how laundries were coping ‘Down Under’. At one stage demand had fallen to as low as 10 per cent of normal activities and was currently around 65 per cent.

The CEO shared that the TSA was becoming more diverse with membership growing in the smaller laundries sector. And he revealed that in a round table conversation with UKHospitality members for the first time there had been discussions on whether hotels’ needs might actually outgrow current laundry availability and linen supply.

Laura Chalkley from Worknest, leading UK providers of outsourced employment law, HR and health and safety services for businesses, could appreciate the issues faced by our industry in attracting and retaining staff. She said employees wanted to know wellbeing was taken seriously, that many sought flexible working, which could mean different shift patterns and longer breaks, and that on diversity and inclusion they expected this not just to be limited to their own needs, but those of colleagues. On pay, Chalkley said: “They are not looking for humungous salaries but that they are paid fairly.” A now regular occurrence was employers reporting that preferred job candidates were dropping out just before being due to start. In a candidate-led market it was vital to get contracts out as soon as possible, she said, rather than risk losing them to an alternative job offer.

If delegates required a little lifting of the spirits it was undoubtedly provided by expert motivator and team builder Adrian Webster, author of highly successful business books including Polar Bear Pirates and Sort Your Brain Out. Delegates were all ears as he described Tiny Noticeable Things (TNTs), the emotional factors that make a difference in the sales process.

The TSA’s Emma Andersson and Shyju Skariah led a Q&A session on the progress of Knowledge Network Projects with Gary Youngson (Elis), Rebecca Morgan (JSG), Sarah Merton (Micronclean) and Ian Stubbs (Jensen), before Rachael Burrage of BHSF Employee Benefits Ltd took attendees through routes to improving cultural health in their organisations. Burrage provided some stark facts, including how anxiety grew not just during lockdowns but even as staff returned to work. Some 45 per cent of employees described themselves as anxious or deeply concerned about going back to more normal work patterns. The TSA is planning a one-day online course for line managers in June to look at this topic and appointment of mental health first aiders.

In a packed agenda it became clear our industry is at the forefront of facing challenges from all directions – including the drive towards greener lifestyles, economies, and day-to-day business activities. As Christoph Geppert of Grain Sustainability and Alexandra Brennan, head of sustainability at JSG, explained, delivering the sustainable future is going to stay at the top of the agenda not just this year, but for many to come.

And when talking about years of effort, the motivational life story of Linford Christie demonstrated how he found personal sustainability – having the right people around him and focussing on goals rather than challenges. It’s just possible that all started in a launderette as Christie revealed his mother used to send him with the family’s washing to the one nearest their home. Targets to achieve coupled with time to think… something we all need.

The TSA team at the Spring Conference (L-R) Emily Macdonald, Shyju Skariah, David Stevens, Emma Andersson

Report: TSA Spring Conference

The TSA’s Spring Conference 2022 was held at the Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel in Birmingham

There was a definite spring in the steps from start to finish of many delegates attending the Textile Services Association’s (TSA) 2022 Spring Conference – the body’s first major gathering in two years since the pandemic halted such face-to-face events. However, even with athletics legend Linford Christie OBE providing undoubted inspiration as the closing keynote speaker, TSA leaders were realistic that the industry must dig in for a gruelling marathon rather than a sprint back to what had been ‘normal service’.

Thankfully, the conference setting in sunshine at Birmingham’s Marriott Forest of Arden Hotel, coupled with a programme designed to both entertain and provide a welcome platform to share knowledge, ensured those attending could return to their businesses with spirits uplifted, ready for the challenges ahead. In their opening remarks TSA chairman Charlie Betteridge and CEO David Stevens highlighted some of the difficulties that need to be overcome, with uncertainty a big factor. Challenges included labour shortages, worse in some regions, exacerbated by the Omicron variant, which while milder than the earlier waves of Covid, has proved to be very contagious. Betteridge said: “It’s really difficult to get people to work in laundries. In some areas businesses cannot run a second shift as there are not enough people.”

And even those with fewer staffing issues shared another challenge – being able to plan ahead with confidence as major customers, particularly in hospitality, were themselves unsure how much work they would produce and unable to make reliable predictions. “This year, UKHospitality says it just doesn’t know how many bookings it will take,” Betteridge pointed out. “People may be planning to holiday out of the country; some cannot afford holidays at all because of the cost of food, energy and so on. So, we just don’t know what to expect.” A glimmer of hope was spotted here though as hotel owners scrutinised every area of their own operations in the search for future resilience. “We are beginning to hear from large hotel groups that finally, laundries are being seen in a different light. They are beginning to ask: ‘Have I got a laundry partner that can see me through?’” Reliability of linen supply had become more important than price.

He also highlighted a matter we’ve given much attention to in Laundry & Cleaning Today – the extraordinary pressure on, and price rises in – the global supply chain. Getting goods from China became almost impossible, alongside severe shortages in commodities including cotton, steel, electronic and equipment parts as the pandemic spread, and today the cost of pallets and containers remains at an all-time high.

“It’s difficult, and I think it’s going to be difficult for at least the next few months,” he concluded. Stevens said the energy crisis had now added to the difficulties laundries were still trying to tackle, but perhaps a sign that some things do change for the better is that he was able to welcome delegates and guests who just a year ago could not have been present at such an event. They included Daniel Kärrholt from Tvatteriforbundet, the Swedish TSA, Linda McCurdy and Sean Curtis from K-Bro in Canada and Andrew Robson and Callen O’Brien from SPL, a major supplier of commercial laundry services across Australia. Robson later took to the stage to provide a fascinating insight into how laundries were coping ‘Down Under’. At one stage demand had fallen to as low as 10 per cent of normal activities and was currently around 65 per cent.

The CEO shared that the TSA was becoming more diverse with membership growing in the smaller laundries sector. And he revealed that in a round table conversation with UKHospitality members for the first time there had been discussions on whether hotels’ needs might actually outgrow current laundry availability and linen supply.

Laura Chalkley from Worknest, leading UK providers of outsourced employment law, HR and health and safety services for businesses, could appreciate the issues faced by our industry in attracting and retaining staff. She said employees wanted to know wellbeing was taken seriously, that many sought flexible working, which could mean different shift patterns and longer breaks, and that on diversity and inclusion they expected this not just to be limited to their own needs, but those of colleagues. On pay, Chalkley said: “They are not looking for humungous salaries but that they are paid fairly.” A now regular occurrence was employers reporting that preferred job candidates were dropping out just before being due to start. In a candidate-led market it was vital to get contracts out as soon as possible, she said, rather than risk losing them to an alternative job offer.

If delegates required a little lifting of the spirits it was undoubtedly provided by expert motivator and team builder Adrian Webster, author of highly successful business books including Polar Bear Pirates and Sort Your Brain Out. Delegates were all ears as he described Tiny Noticeable Things (TNTs), the emotional factors that make a difference in the sales process.

The TSA’s Emma Andersson and Shyju Skariah led a Q&A session on the progress of Knowledge Network Projects with Gary Youngson (Elis), Rebecca Morgan (JSG), Sarah Merton (Micronclean) and Ian Stubbs (Jensen), before Rachael Burrage of BHSF Employee Benefits Ltd took attendees through routes to improving cultural health in their organisations. Burrage provided some stark facts, including how anxiety grew not just during lockdowns but even as staff returned to work. Some 45 per cent of employees described themselves as anxious or deeply concerned about going back to more normal work patterns. The TSA is planning a one-day online course for line managers in June to look at this topic and appointment of mental health first aiders.

In a packed agenda it became clear our industry is at the forefront of facing challenges from all directions – including the drive towards greener lifestyles, economies, and day-to-day business activities. As Christoph Geppert of Grain Sustainability and Alexandra Brennan, head of sustainability at JSG, explained, delivering the sustainable future is going to stay at the top of the agenda not just this year, but for many to come.

And when talking about years of effort, the motivational life story of Linford Christie demonstrated how he found personal sustainability – having the right people around him and focussing on goals rather than challenges. It’s just possible that all started in a launderette as Christie revealed his mother used to send him with the family’s washing to the one nearest their home. Targets to achieve coupled with time to think… something we all need.

The TSA team at the Spring Conference (L-R) Emily Macdonald, Shyju Skariah, David Stevens, Emma Andersson

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