Happy New Year 2021: Discos, gin and ethanol

When we posted in March 2020, the world was newly different due to the pandemic. Much of what was to follow had started, but was yet to be fully felt, with jobs, public health, education, the arts, mental health, in fact pretty much everything, seriously impacted in some way. The Covid-19 pandemic Lockdown 1 was introduced across the UK and the world as we knew it ended. Many aspects of what we took for everyday life were lost. Countering a sudden threat to lives took precedence.

There was, unsurprisingly, a collective sigh of relief across the country at the passing of the last year, but as 2021 begins so has yet another lockdown.

Yet the vaccine is here and rolling out, in the UK at least, tremendously quickly. Of course, there are a number of approved vaccines, and it is hoped that they are a gamechanger so that some of the world that ended almost a year ago can be restored. There is no mistaking the sheer number of deaths, the economic damage, and the literal heroism of many in the 'frontline', including NHS staff and delivery drivers and those in 'essential occupations'. That extended to our factory staff as we churned out record volumes of alcohol sanitizer. Even those sales had a hiatus at one point in the spring as we, and many far larger manufacturers, were unable, temporarily, to source key materials, notably ethanol. When the supply returned, ethanol came with a fourfold price hike, and it became a challenge not to pass all of this along to our customers.

We are proud of the fact that we didn't put our prices up disproportionately, at a time when even small handheld bottles of hand sanitizer were on major online platforms for tens of pounds, where before they had been available for a pound or two. We love our customers, and seeing those in sectors such as education, sport, leisure and hospitality in distress was and is painful, and we were not about to add to it. In fact, when we sponsored the local and very historic football club, Cray Wanderers, we did so simply to help out at a time when other sponsors were being forced by circumstances to withdraw. We saw that some of our competitors moved their production over to 100% hand sanitizer for a time, while we kept on satisfying orders across our ranges. That has included exports, with those to Ireland in particular continuing, even after the Brexit trade deal was signed with the European Union.

Over the last year and despite some terrible circumstances, there has been so much to be proud of. The way our factory staff kept coming in and enabled our sanitizing products go out of the loading bay, lorry after lorry, to join the fight against the pandemic. The first moment of a new national unity that came on Thursday 26th March at 8pm when we first clapped for carers, celebrating the vital work of medics and others in the public services. There are so many other moments and new things. 100-year old Captain Sir Tom Moore raising a spectacular amount of money for NHS charities by walking around his garden. Fitness instructor Joe Wicks and his morning exercise classes for families. Sophie Ellis-Bextor and her kitchen discos. The list is enormous. We were grateful to many of our suppliers carrying on supplying us when times were very difficult, which has a lot to do with the fact that we have strong relationships based on years of working together. In a year of 'pivot and flex' that was forced upon people, we found gin distillers and others join us in making hand sanitizer, though we can confirm we have no plans to make gin ourselves!

We carry on, as we have for decades, and we are grateful for being an employer at a time when many have lost their jobs. We admire the spirit of the community in Bromley, where we have had local people doing much to help out the isolated and the lonely, where the Rotary Clubs have set up a project to offer skills workshops for unemployed local people and those fearing unemployment - more here. You can listen to an interview with two local people involved in that with the Mayor of Bromley here. Then there were online 'Business Continuity Support' learning and networking sessions in Bromley, which have resumed with the arrival of the latest lockdown. Amongst others, Chandra Sharma has been behind these welcome events, as he is a lot of community activity, when he is not running his business in Orpington, Tangent Office Resources.

We wish everyone a very happy, prosperous and healthy 2021 and beyond and that the pandemic and its affects are soon behind us.