Ben Turner is a Director and Co-founder of V12 Footwear. Ben is passionate about improving foot comfort for the worker and has applied over 35 years of his experience in all aspects of footwear and foot health.
The implications of COVID-19 are, and will be, far reaching for this sector in the widest sense. What do you think will happen over the next 12 months? What major shifts/changes can we expect?
We have experienced far reaching disruption to the sector with once in a lifetime changes and shifts in pattern behaviour. Certain industries have experienced growth, such as sectors of the food trade and healthcare, whilst others have experienced fall off in business. The upshot is that the way we work and live has changed for good. We will see a shift to flexible working with many employees choosing to work from home. Industries such as healthcare and food production will continue to grow, whilst others, such as retail and travel, will be slow to regain momentum. Smaller scale specialised manufacturing will spring up replacing large traditional manufacturing. Reliance on Asian manufacturing will slowly reduce. The consumer will be more discerning looking for quickly available apparel solutions utilising technical materials to enhance comfort. A shift to feature rich products will see an increase price which may be tempered by a fall in the number of units sold.
COVID-19 is likely to test the ability of every CEO in every sector. What attributes do you think will be important in regard to your own ability to manage your organisation through COVID-19 in 2021/22?
The role of CEO in every sector has never been more important. You could say that the pandemic has torn up the rule book of predictability, making it difficult to plan far ahead. Fast moving changes can knock a business off course in weeks, if not days. A clear strategy is essential however short term it may be, if the CEO does not know where they are going then the staff certainly will not either. The attributes that are needed are the ability to keep a cool head, study for opportunity, then strike fast and decisively. Another attribute of critical importance is to provide reassurance. Uncertainty in markets causes your staff and colleagues to worry about job security and the strength of the business to sustain multiple market shocks. Reassurance from the top flows through the business, giving strength to the whole structure. Remember a business reflects the management.
What do we need to do differently as sector to ensure we maximise the health of the sector over the course of 2021/2022?
To maximise the health of the sector we must seize the opportunity to change and be agile and responsive to consumer demands. In turn, the consumer is open to new ideas and innovation – therein lies opportunity. Look at this as a fresh start for a new way of working: adapt or die. Be ready to produce smaller runs of customised product. Value added management solutions will continue to win deals. Another opportunity will be the willingness of customers to review supply agreements in the light of the pandemic. The credibility of businesses will be critically underpinned by certification and efficiency of systems and processes with a rock-solid requirement for source traceability and product conformity.