On Friday, 27th March I shut the factory for the safety and wellbeing of my staff.
Although manufacturers were not (and are not) obliged to close in the way that non-essential retailers are, I took the view that it is the spirit of the rules which matters most to the national effort rather than attempting to find ways around them. All staff have been retained and will continue to receive their wages for as long as we can continue to pay them. They are all safe and when we look back on these days, that is what will have been most important to me.
However, since closing we’ve been inundated with requests for flags aimed at thanking the NHS and other key workers. My choice was to either meet that demand, satisfy our loyal customers and protect the jobs of my staff… or to let the orders go to other manufacturers in Europe and the Far East.
With that in mind I took the decision to open and run a limited production line, just for these flags. No staff; just myself and other members of my immediate household. If you’ve noticed that we’re not currently offering our normal range of sizes and fittings on these flags, that’s why.
The response from our customers has been overwhelmingly positive, but I have also had two complaints. I have written to each of these customers personally and have heard nothing further, but I also want to take this opportunity to state my position more widely.
We are not donating any part of the sale of these flags to the NHS. We are charging a fair and modest amount for good quality flags delivered at speed in difficult circumstances. We have not raised our prices and I am not taking payment personally for keeping this one line operational. Whatever little we do manage to make is being used to keep jobs alive for my staff. That’s all the justification I need, and I stand by my decision.
We are flagmakers. We have always been flagmakers. I have been making flags for more than 30 years, and some of my staff have been with me since I started. If something happens in the world, we make flags to celebrate, commemorate, acknowledge or remember it. That’s what we do. It feels important to me that we do the same now.
Finally, and separately to the above, we are in conversation with NHS Nightingale London and others about their flag needs. If they need something which we’re able to produce, we’ll do so without charge for as long as we can afford to.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. Please stay safe.
Charles Ashburner FFI