I am really saddened and feel compelled to write this message on this grey morning...
I have just come off the phone to a fantastic human being who just so happens to work for one of the multiples in the optical industry and has been put at risk of redundancy this past week. The reason my heart sank was that this is one of the nicest individuals you will meet and has just been through the worse sequence of events that you wouldn’t wish on anyone...
He has 3 very young kids, he lost his wife at Christmas to cancer and has been managing the children by himself since then whilst juggling his day job as an optometrist, working 7 days a week, doing extra locum days to make ends meet.
When Covid kicked in, he lost his locum days, and now he will lose his job, at a time when unemployment is rising and their aren’t many new opportunities out there! A horrible horrible situation. I just hope that by the end of our conversation, I was able to help and provide comfort in some meaningful way.
At a time when everyone is reminding their customers that they are ready and open for business, I want to let all my friends and colleagues in the optical profession know that at HG we are here and open to help in whatever way we can during these challenging times. I say this, not from a business perspective, but due to the very direct human impact of this virus. People are nervous for themselves, their loved ones, their future and even their livelihood.
It’s a sign of the times... less than a week ago I was saddened by the news that the Norville lab was in administration - I know they made some progress this week in finding a resolution and I hope for Frank Norville and his team, that some positive news is announced soon.
This week we were all informed that some of our colleagues at Boots will be impacted due to the closure of 48 Boots Opticians stores. Whilst rationalisation and consolidation during this period is inevitable for some of the bigger businesses, my heart goes out to the families of those colleagues who will be made redundant.
As a business owner, I totally understand that businesses need to be sustainable and these past 3 months have probably been the most challenging I have ever had to work through. During more buoyant times, businesses can carry some loss making locations if there are enough locations making a strong positive financial contribution. However, during a deep downturn like the one being experienced right now, the larger retailers will have to rapidly restructure their estate to ensure they navigate through the downturn. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Specsavers, Vision Express, Boots or a stand-alone independent - EVERY type of optical retail practice is impacted to some extent or another, and whilst some may be able to carry on for longer than others before having to make changes, if the climate takes a prolonged period to recover, then restructuring, adapting, evolving, whatever you want to call it will be inevitable for all of us. That’s just a simple truth of basic economics!
The sad reality of this is that our friends and colleagues, whether they wear a red uniform, blue, green, or no uniform at all. People with mortgages, kids, people with responsibilities for others will be severely impacted.
Whilst in more normal times, we might spend a lot of time looking at ways in which we can compete to attract customers, in these times of common adversity, I hope we can come together as an industry to support each other and provide opportunities, jobs, or even just some comfort, to those who are disproportionately impacted.
If any colleagues are impacted, regardless of where you work, and looking for some support, please contact me directly or any of my team at HG. If we have an opportunity for you we will be happy to explore. If not, and we know of an opportunity elsewhere that might benefit you, we will point you in the right direction. And if nothing else, we will be happy to lend an ear or a shoulder so together we come through these challenging times, stronger than ever before.
Much love and peace to you and yours