A couple months ago we carried out a Survey at a pivotal moment for our Industry. Ending on 30th October 2020, against the backdrop of coronavirus, a global crisis and Brexit, the Survey’s aim to identify business priorities and where further support is required.
We received responses from across the section of our CSSA Membership, including a number from UK National Operating Organisations with the majority coming from large Regional Service Providers and a sizeable number from developing cleaning SME’s.
Cleaning & Support Services delivered by the responding organisations included the provision of services to NHS, Central & Local Government, Finance and Banking and the traditional Business to Business organisations.
From them the following summary has been compiled.
Question 1: What impact (positive or negative) in percentage terms has the pandemic had on sales…?
There was no common factor either positive or negatively with the sales percentage impact varying from +30% to -30%.
In many organisations contractual sales suffered a downturn which had been offset by specialist and ad-hoc services.
While new contractual business wins have continued a number of contracts have been mothballed together with contract retenders/renegotiations being deferred.
A mixed bag of responses which did not give a clear steer as to the future impact on turnover for the on-going UK Cleaning Industry.
Question 2: Has your business taken a BB or CIBLs loan..? If so, for what purpose..? Contingency, customers not paying, short term cash flow issues, other..?
The majority of respondents had elected not to take out any form of loan.
Those who did utilised the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) all as a contingency. No respondent took advantage of the Business Finance for Small Business (BB) facility.
Most took advantage of the VAT relief.
Interesting in that the majority where comfortable with their ongoing cash flow position in what are challenging times!
Question 3: Has the pandemic made you think differently about your business and how you will run it moving forward? Please Explain?
This question gave rise to wide ranging, often contradictory, responses:
‘Increased focus on technology to improve mobile working for both HQ and operational teams’ – ‘Not really, the same business fundamentals will apply in the future’.
‘Not materially’ – ‘It has indeed and I hope that we have used the Lockdown period wisely by having all the non-furloughed and salaried staff working on a ‘Smart Working’ project’
‘Training Adds Value’ - Colleague Welfare, Training, and the ‘Advancement of Technology’, were common themes running through the majority of responses particularly in making businesses more multi-skilled and being perceived as experts.
It was generally accepted that the majority have challenged and appraised their approach regularly over recent months. Setting their own strategy, while keeping an open mind, stacks up at the moment but that’s not to say they won’t need to make changes if the landscape doesn’t return to something resembling pre- Covid levels.
Question 4: How positive are you on the future of our industry? ie. Do you see new opportunity/more opportunity after the pandemic?
Another question which gave rise to ‘Mixed Emotions’
The advancement of technology is going to apply pressure to organisations who don’t embrace/engage and adapt. Our industry is changing fast, client expectations higher than ever, tech and innovation options increasing and it’s going to genuinely change the role of the cleaning company.
The overall commercial contract cleaning market will reduce in size. City centre office space will decline significantly with preferences for home working. Retail cleaning will also continue to decline as consumers increase their volume of on line purchasing.
Cleaning in schools, higher education establishments, hospitals, in some public transport networks and in public use spaces is likely to have a higher profile and turnover in these sectors is likely to increase.
There is new opportunity for one-off and periodic anti-viral sanitising but this will be balanced by a reduction in specialist carpet cleaning and floor maintenance services as a result of the reduction in footfall in the areas concerned.
‘Very, the industry is being identified as ‘key workers’ and finally getting the recognition it deserves. I believe it is positive for our industry as long as we keep media attention and discussions with government around our status’
Overall, the respondents remain positive and believe that this industry has a chance to highlight how professional it has become. Clients have looked to the cleaning industry for answers to complex questions during the pandemic and end users will rely heavily on the services we provide if they are to return to the workplace in meaningful numbers. The opportunities to provide innovative and scientific validation of cleaning standards and provide safe working environments is just one area where the industry can shine.
Question 5: How can the CSSA best help you and your business over the next 12 months?
The CSSA could assist by ensuring that:
We are kept up to speed with all concerns, actions, suggestions, plans, strategies and opportunities throughout this period. It should be focussed with the need for change across the industry and assisting members with thoughts, suggestions and advice
Working closely with government and driving assistance and recognition of the role that we play is vital and cannot be understated
Being at the forefront of ensuring that the industry can collectively drive the change required to get back a sense of normality when we do eventually move on from the pandemic.
Maintaining the daily briefings and changes in government policy, guidance this will be very worthwhile especially around Brexit
It feels like the right time to formally raise the awareness and recognition of our front-line cleaning operatives. CSSA has a huge role to play in terms of raising profile of industry and key to success would be to focus on procurement/clients by showing them the benefits of engaging with CSSA members.
To summarise the various suggestions, thoughts, ideas etc:
By providing accurate and meaningful information, most owner/managers are too involved in the day to day operation of their businesses to research all necessary information and so see the role of the CSSA to be available as a support and advice structure.
Continued positive messaging and communication is a strong driver for businesses in this sector. Knowing that we have a voice that will speak on behalf of an industry that has shone during difficult times. Promotion to ensure that cleaning is not simply dropped back to the bottom of the pile is also important.