A Dundee company boss said there would have been fewer redundancies if the furlough scheme had been extended earlier.
The looming end date to the Job Retention Scheme “forced” a city firm to make job cuts last summer.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak initially said the furlough scheme would close at the end of October. The Government paid just 60% of workers’ wages in the final month.
The scheme was utilised by printing firm Tradeprint whose sales were badly hit as businesses closed and events were cancelled.
With the furlough end date approaching, it started a consultation process. This led to 37 workers losing their jobs.
‘We wouldn’t have cut so deep’
But the scheme was then given a last minute extension, much to the frustration of Tradeprint’s managing director Charlene Joss.
“When Covid hit, our sales fell to as little as 10% of normal levels,” she recalled.
“They recovered quickly, but they normalised at around minus 40%.
“The Government presented the furlough scheme, but attached the end date – our hands were forced. Then at the 11th hour they extend the scheme.
“If we’d known furlough would have continued at 80%, some of the people made redundant would still have jobs now.
“We certainly wouldn’t have cut so deep.”
Covid a ‘catalyst for change’
Tradeprint’s sales compared to pre-Covid levels remain down but have steadily improved. Boosted by the forthcoming election, volumes were down by around 20% in April.
Mrs Joss said Covid-19 has also served as a catalyst for change. Outsourced jobs were brought back in house to make full use of the surplus capacity available.
She said the firm had made some investments on equipment and would soon need to recruit workers again.
“We’d been making real progress in moving the business from the red to the black before Covid hit,” she said.
“All our hard work was wiped out which was devastating.
“The redundancy process was horrible and so emotional for everyone involved. It’s not something any of us wants to experience again in our lifetimes.
“The saddest part was knowing nothing anyone did was wrong and there was nothing we could do to change it. We felt so powerless.
“Our mantra was to make sure we did it with dignity and respect. We don’t know what’s round the corner and we might suddenly need people back again.
“At last, we’re starting to see volumes picking back up. We’re at the stage now where we need to start looking to recruit again in some areas.”
She said the company, which operates from two sites in Dundee had been well supported by its owner, Cimpress. It did not take any Government loans on offer.
Optimism for 2021 and praise for staff
Newly filed company accounts for the year ending June 30 show sales of £12.4 million compared to £15.1m last year. The pre-tax loss remained stable at £2.8m despite the dramatic downturn in revenue.
Mrs Joss said she was looking forward to 2021 with optimism. Known for producing small format printed material Tradeprint has turned its attention to promoting wide format products, labels and stickers.
One area of particular strength has been sales of photogifts such as personalised canvases, T-shirts and mugs.
She explained: “With not seeing loved ones people are taking that extra care and attention to give a personal gift. It’s been an area of real growth.
“We have also started a new cash back loyalty scheme to encourage our trade customers to use us as a one-stop shop for products by providing them with extra benefits and offers.
“I’m really optimistic. I honestly feel like there’s a shining light at the end of the tunnel.
“I feel so thankful to be surrounded by incredibly talented, hard-working and passionate staff members.
“We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for their overwhelming dedication to get us through this and out the other side.
“We’ve navigated the storm and are getting ready for expansion, growth and investment.”