Laurence Whiting, sale director, Acctim.

Today we catch up with Laurence Whiting, sales director with Acctim, the British company that has led the way in designing affordable and iconic time pieces for over 90 years. We talk clocks, teamwork – and orders from our new hospitals for clocks

How’s the team’s morale?
Everyone at Acctim is safe and well. Times are very challenging but, with the help of technology (thanks Microsoft Teams!) we are finding ways to keep morale and togetherness up. It’s important when we are not together, that we still find ways to socialise and interact, like we would in the office. This week we will have our first videoconference company quiz!

How are you coping with staffing levels?
We initially set everyone up to work from home but, when the government announced the closure of non-essential retailers, it took away 90% of our customer base and we have found it important to furlough many of our staff to protect everyone’s jobs. We want the whole team back together again at the end of this and the scheme gives us that chance. We now have a mixture of staff in the office, working from home and on furlough, all of which brings new challenges.

Are you a company where some staff can comfortably work remotely?
We are not a service company so it is not our natural model to work from home but it has been interesting and eye-opening to see how we can each react to the changes. All of our staff have been fantastic in making the transition and we often get a lovely extra insight into homelife with the kids on video calls!

How clear have you found government guidelines so far?
So far I feel the government has been as clear as can be expected of them. There’s no silver bullet for any of this but I have been impressed with the speed and depth of their response.

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Do you feel the government is offering enough support?
From speaking with friends and customers around the globe, it appears to me that the UK government has created support systems that are almost unrivalled. This doesn’t mean they can’t improve, there are still too many cracks for honest, hardworking people to fall through and not get the help they really need.

Business strategies you have in place to assist the continual smooth running of your business?
We are still open for business, continuing to work with a skeleton team, servicing those customers who are able to continue trading. For example, we have a strong commercial business selling to customers with NHS contracts. We are, perhaps unsurprisingly, seeing orders come through for new hospitals needing clocks.

Do you have any helpful advice or additional support you are offering your retailers?
It’s interesting talking to our retailers – everyone has a slightly different view on life of course, but the one constant I’m seeing is the forward-looking, forward-thinking mindset of everyone. There’s not one person I’ve spoken to who is not fired up and ready for the challenge ahead after this is past us and that will be key in rebuilding the economy quickly.

Do you have any additional information or imagery of new ranges you could circulate to retailers to put onto their own websites should their bricks and mortar store have to close?
Many of our customers have moved to selling online to remain trading and we are more than happy to support them in doing this. We were fortunate to have new products en route before the worst of this crisis hit and we have lots of lovely new stock landing now.

Have you currently got good stock levels to meet supply demand and the logistics in place to aim for smooth delivery?
We are really fortunate that we have good stock levels and are supported by a network of great couriers.

Do you feel that you may have any stock issues on the horizon and, if so, how will you seek to overcome these?
It would be folly to believe we won’t have some issues in the coming months with stocks but our supply chain is open and operating and we are working hard with them and talking regularly to negate this as much as possible. We expect delays to be minimal at this stage.

What’s your online presence and social media set-up like?
Online has been a key area of growth for us in the last couple of years and we work closely with a handful of pure-play businesses to maintain our brand online. We always strive to have the correct balance between online and bricks and mortar.

How will you continue to drive awareness to your product ranges?
We hope in time to return to the trade shows, exhibiting at AIS and Home Hardware shows and at Ambiente, Frankfurt, and our excellent sales team are just itching to be released back out onto the road!

What can Gifts Today do to provide you with to help you with your current objectives?
Our current objectives are like everyone’s; to have everyone stay safe and well and for us all to protect ourselves, not just financially, but emotionally too. Gifts Today is an important outlet for businesses to understand that what’s happening in the country is not limited only to them and we are all going through this together. Soon may it be over!

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