Optimism in 2021

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Optimism in 2021

By any standards, this has been a daunting and chastening 14 months. From the moment Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the first lockdown on March 23, as Covid-19 gripped the country, we, like some many UK businesses, have faced a number of serious and unprecedented challenges. It hasn’t been easy but, and I’m touching wood as I write this, there are now genuine reasons for optimism as we emerge, battered but unbowed, from a year of living dangerously.

The key reason for this optimism is the widespread confidence in the UK economy. According to the chief executive of Barclays, Jes Staley, the UK economy is on course for its biggest economic boom since 1948 as the country’s successful coronavirus vaccination programme allows consumers to go out and spend. Mr Staley predicted the strongest year for economic growth since the aftermath of the Second World War, at 6.5% this year, as the “tremendous pent-up demand” built up during the pandemic is released. He explained: “The UK has done so well around the vaccination process, basically 50% of the population is now vaccinated. I think that’s going to allow the economy to open up sooner than what you might see in other countries.”

Lancer SquareAt the same time, our order book for this year is very healthy, with a number of exciting commissions on the horizon. We have just completed three major projects in London, Lancer Square in Kensington, Mount Row in Mayfair and One Molyneux Street in Marylebone and there are more high-quality commissions in the pipeline including a prestigious housing development at King’s Cross, overlooking the station.

There were fears that Covid-19 might hit the self-build residential property market hard, but that is not our experience. We are currently providing bricks for self-build projects across the UK, with many house-owners releasing the money they have saved over the past year. These include commissions in York, Doncaster, Sheffield, Liverpool, the Wirral, Durham, Hexham, Shropshire, Rugby and Stoke, totalling almost £1m.

Before the lockdown, we had enjoyed the most successful 12 months in our 33-year history with a record turnover of over £2.7 million. Going forward, that has set a benchmark for success. Another benchmark is the number of projects that we submit for the annual Brick Development Association awards, the Oscars of the brick industry. This year we are submitting six and I hope I am not being too arrogant when I say I am extremely proud of all of them.

Magdelene College libraryThey are: the brand-new Magdalene College Library at Cambridge University, for which we provided 300,000 bricks and specials; St Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire; One Molyneux Street, a residential housing development; the Porter’s Lodge at Jesus College, Cambridge University; Valentine House in Allostock, Cheshire; and the Epic Hotel in Liverpool.

We have a wonderful track record in the BDA awards, winning and being highly commended in a host of categories over the years. Huge thanks are due to the management team and employees at York Handmade for their imagination, enterprise and hard work, which have all combined to make this recognition possible. It is also important to stress that our six entries are completely different jobs in design and execution, graphically illustrating our ability to work in a wide variety of colours and styles. We believe we can tackle any brickwork project successfully.

I do hope my optimism reflects yours. The last year has been deeply stressful for most of us, and tragic for many others, but I genuinely believe that, if the vaccination programme continues to be rolled out so successfully, the UK’s economy will boom as the year progress. And I am confident that here at York Handmade, we are ready to take advantage of the opportunities that brings.