The Cutting Edge
With much of textile manufacturing moving overseas, centuries old British brands have faced uncertain times and there have been questions raised about some production methods used abroad.
Textile supplier and distributor, Vision Support Services, has created a global platform through which it can source responsibly produced products.
Laurie Thomas, Managing Director, said: “Throughout the 80’s and 90’s and even up to the early 2000’s, the traditional manufacturers in the UK were under tremendous pressure from the overseas countries but the customers all wanted assurance that the sources of supply were very well run, ethically operating businesses so the idea of the Vision group was to bring together the traditional strong brands and couple that with very strong ethically sourced product.
Vision is proud to be the custodian of three important brands for the textile history of the UK and we’ve been able to acquire Hilden which is the prestige performance brand for laundries, we were able to bring into the group, Liddell, which is a premier Irish brand for the supply of five-star hotels around the world and we’ve been able to develop Whitakers, which is a premier healthcare brand around the country.
Michelle Pegg, Operations Director, said: “I worked for Hilden manufacturing. We’d just reached the point where we couldn’t afford to sustain the production facilities that we had in the UK. We actually went into administration. I was extremely relieved when Vision took over.”
Laurie continued: “Initially we left all the brands operating in their own marketplaces. Where the success of Vision has been where we’ve amalgamated the brands together under the Vision platform, some people have extremely detailed knowledge of certain areas of textiles and we’ve been able to take that across the group to solve issues that our customers have.”
Michelle said: “It’s still an ongoing challenge to get everybody to think ‘Vision’ rather than to think in terms of the separate brands. We overcome that, particularly through our Marketing department, bringing us together to work as one company with shared goals and shared visions.”
Based in Blackburn, Lancashire the company has a strategy to support the international hotel, healthcare and retail supply chain. With prestigious customers such as The Atlantis, The Palm, The One & Only Bahamas, The Fairmont plus retaining contracts to five out of the six major UK-based hotel chains.
Michelle said: “Vision supplies to the major hotel groups and the laundries both in the UK and overseas. We’ve supplied the Ministry of Defence and we’ve also secured a crucial contract with the Ministry of Justice. We’ve worked alongside and supplied John Lewis for around 75 years now which we’re extremely proud of.
We employ over 100 people worldwide; that includes sourcing offices in India, China and Pakistan and we also have sales offices in Dubai and Ireland along with a worldwide distributor network. Because they’re local to that country they have the knowledge and understanding, the culture in that country and in-depth knowledge of the suppliers and build very good relationships with those suppliers. “
Vision’s business model is able to reassure customers concerned about product sourcing.
“We like to fully engage with the customer; explain exactly what we can do. All of our suppliers are visited and vetted through our own internal quality and social and ethical audit procedures. Our suppliers are also third-party audited by BICI and SMETA to further ensure they are socially and ethically compliant.
Chris Noel, Buyer for Filled Bedding at John Lewis said: “We’re very pleased with the quality of the products we get from Vision. Ethical sourcing is a much bigger concern than it used to be. We’ve got confidence from Vision because we know the level of QC and attention to detail that goes on.
Jason Miller, CEO of CLEAN, said: “We provide linen rental to the UK’s hospitality sector and we want to make sure what we’re providing people is ethically sourced and it’s incredibly important to have a really robust supply chain and that’s absolutely why we work so closely with Vision because we can guarantee that those things are in place.
Laurie said: “The success has been when we’ve been able to get across to the customers ‘there is a lot more to this box of sheets, this robe than a straightforward purchase’ so they get a lot of comfort from the Vision brand behind these premier brands going to the market.”
Voted Business of the Year at the 2016 E3 Business Awards, Vision Support Services has seen its turnover increase from £28.5million to £43million in five years.
Julie Batten, Head of Housing, Business and Services at One Housing Group, said: “One Housing Group are one of the largest developers of extra care accommodation. Vision provide a dedicated interior designer, designing for dementia. They will deliver when they say they’ll deliver, they’ll meet our budget, they’re very responsive, they’re able to come up with solutions.”
Anticipating continued growth into Europe, North America, the Far East, the Middle East and Africa, Vision Support Services will embrace fresh challenges.
Laurie continued: “The wide variety of customers we have nationally means that, at some point, we will need to introduce a multiplatform channel to enable supplies digitally.
Michelle said: “I think that the lesson that people need to take from the Vision Support Services story is that you can never stand still. As a business, you constantly need to be looking at recruiting decent people, identifying areas for concern and investing in the infrastructure to be able to support that growth. It’s a dynamic, quickly evolving company.”