2021…perhaps for many a year more uncertain than 2020. Once again, 2021 was dominated by Covid-19, its variants and divisive politics. It continued to have sweeping effects on supply chains, product availability and staffing levels, not only in the KBB industry but across all public and private sectors.
2021 was a significant year here at HPP: it was our 30th anniversary, having been started way back in 1991 from a single warehouse housing 25 staff, a truck, a saw and an edge bander. With Covid an ever-present concern with regards to staff safety and business, revelries were planned, then postponed. What should have been a celebratory year turned into one of muted caution, albeit with staff gift boxes and cakes towards the end of the year. We certainly hope to make a bigger song and dance about our 30 years in the KBB industry this year!
While the constant threat of supply issues gave us some cause for concern, it also gave us a chance to do what we do very well here at HPP. We rapidly took stock of the situation, put plans in place (which seemingly altered week by week as global issues changed) and adapted for the circumstances, communicating to trade customers as quickly as possible. Staff availability and isolation from the dreaded 'pinged' situation was a constant issue that required some careful management as cover was required across numerous departments, particularly those where production continuity was a priority.
Any business is only as good as its staff, and in that regard HPP certainly has the cream of the crop! We've long championed the development and success of our staff, evident by the majority of articles in 2021 that focused on the people that make HPP what it is & how they strive to do better. We welcomed many new staff in 2021, including Marketing Coordinator Amy Fairbank. As well as bringing in new talent, existing staff bolstered their skills - our Health & Safety Officer Stuart Chamberlain gained some advanced qualifications and Josh Burke, one of our Maintenance Team who's continuing his Engineering apprenticeship with HPP, having already completed his City & Guilds Electrical Engineering qualification with us in 2020. Talking of apprentices, Ellie McCartney joined the Sales team earlier in the year after delays in her placement due to HPP closing for several months in 2020 because of Covid restrictions.
HPP also signed up for a major government employment initiative, the Kickstart Scheme. Again, Covid restrictions caused some delays but eventually we took on 6 young people at our Oldham and Sheffield sites and were impressed with their enthusiasm and commitment. People come and go, and their circumstances change, but we were more than happy later on in 2021 to offer three of the original 6 Kickstarters permanent full-time jobs with HPP.
Further staff development and training took place in the form of the introduction of the ILM Team Leadership Programme. By July, 17 team leaders and supervisors had successfully completed Level 2, with more staff joining the programme. And later in the year we had some new faces join the extensive First Aider programme. With nearly 200 staff across the Oldham site alone, with multiple warehouses, disciplines and shifts, we need to ensure we have adequate First Aider cover, keeping staff and visitors safe.
Beyond HPP, we like to do our little bit where possible. In July our Marketing and Business Development Director, Dan Mounsey raised over £2000 for Tameside, Oldham and Glossop Mind, running his first ultra marathon. A slightly shorter distance, but by no means less impressive was taken by our HR Manager Carole Hamnett-Sadler for her 5k run around Heaton Park for Cancer Research UK's Race for Life in early October. Carole's no stranger to fundraising, having collected over £8000 for cancer charities since 2009, as well as being the driving force behind HPP's involvement in the Wear It Pink fundraising activities for the last 6 years.
Product-wise, it was really Egger's year. Since their Decorative Collection launch in 2020 was impacted by the emergence of Covid-19, it meant that 2021 was the first time that many KBB businesses and their customers could fully appreciate their full range of MFC décors, worktops and associated products. In February we launched our digital Egger Inspiration Centre, bringing together a range of digital resources in one central hub for our trade customers to gain an insight into the Egger product range, as well as visual aids to ultimately help them with their end-customers for décor choices. As part of the immense Decorative Collection there were updates to the Egger worktop range, with numerous décors, thickness options and some realistic woodgrain choices as part of the extensive Feelwood range.
Late in the year we launched our Egger Optima range: working closely with the very knowledgeable folk at Egger we created an online Builder with a select range of woodgrains, uni-colours and materials finishes, specially chosen for frontages. With the recent addition of 8 new Eggerzum décors, the Egger Optima range now features 42 décor options.
Our product news wasn't all about MFC though… well, not quite. Throughout the year, after a successful trial in 2020, we decided to roll out a small but significant upgrade to all our 18mm Cut and Edged panels, at no extra cost to customers. The ABS edge is more durable and gives a better finish than the 0.4mm melamine, so in applications where edge detail is important, the 0.8mm ABS wins every time.
We also launched our new handle display boards early in 2021, on the back of a complete handle range review. The new-look handle boards are the perfect platform for trade customers and showrooms to showcase our full handle range to their end customers. By bringing in some new on-trend options and reducing the older styles, we've streamlined the offering by about 50% but our new selection has been incredibly popular, validating the choices made by our Purchasing team!
And last but by no means least we introduced our new Oak Flat Pack Furniture Drawers, replacing the existing Beech bedroom drawers. Using 15mm MFC throughout and Blum soft-close runners they are better in practically every way but at the same price of the old beech drawers. The drawers are available in two heights (85mm and 150mm) and a range of sizes, and come with everything required for quick assembly and fitting.
And finally, after months of drying out and renovation (again the inevitable delays from Covid restrictions and supply issues of replacement equipment) after the floods back in later 2019, our trade counter at Sheffield was finally finished and fully functional! It's now a sleek, functional area for our customers who visit the Sheffield branch to do business in and while the new space doesn't have the same product displays as before, our Sheffield staff will be only too happy to demonstrate available products from their Fittings area.
As we're nearly through January already we're hoping that things continue to improve throughout 2022. We are expecting it to be another uncertain year from a supply point of view but we're working hard with our key supply partners to ensure we have the right stock at the right time. We're committed to continuing to help our trade customers deliver, whatever the circumstances for the year ahead.