Viewpoint: Diary of a spectacle designer
Tom Davies finds his supply chains and expansion plans at the mercy of the Omicron variant
Author: Tom Davies
Is there anything new to write about Omicron? In the UK, it seems to have boiled down to one message, namely ‘save the NHS’, and, despite a brave attempt by our Prime Minister to distract us from it with 12-month-old Christmas parties, we are all glued to our news outlets deciphering data and interpreting stats once more. Partygate didn’t last long. We are on the home stretch to saving Christmas now.
Omicron, which sounds like an evil artificial intelligence from a 1980s science fiction novel, is hell bent on global domination. This morning I got an email from my Japanese acetate supplier informing me that due to new Omicron restrictions, my acetate would be delayed until February 20. The exact date annoyed me. A Brit would have said ‘end of February’ and left Omicron some wriggle room.
Last Friday, I had two of my old staff’s visas rejected because we are in an area of concern. I’ve £250,000 worth of machinery chugging closer and closer to us on the high seas for my new titanium line and no one’s going to be here to train up the plucky young British staff I’ve hired. So that’s another job I’ll have to take on.
I’ve also just ordered 50,000 frames from my production in London. I’m ramping up my exports to the US and I need half of these frames ready for dispatch by early April. My Catch London brand is booming in North America and I’ve hired an American sales director, opened a new office in Chicago and have 15 sales reps jobs open.
Making 50,000 pairs of glasses is all reliant on fluid supply chains and hiring production staff. Getting it done in current circumstances could be my greatest challenge in 20 years in the business. Yes, next year my company will be 20 years old. That frightens me slightly. It makes me old. People keep asking me if we are going to be celebrating it. It feels like celebrating an 80th birthday.
A 20-year-old business is a serious thing, mature, old. I still feel like I’m just getting started. I don’t want to be 20. At least on this fourth wave, I do feel there will be a 20th birthday for the company. The first, second and third waves made me wonder if we would still be trading in 2022.
What about our retail stores? What about opticians all over the UK? We are told that being fully jabbed gives no protection. It’s a booster or bust. With Omicron cases doubling each day and transmission more fluid than a game of tag, we are effectively operating super spreader clinics in our stores. Statistically, in the early New Year, the entire country will have Omicron.
I don’t know how many of my staff have had a booster. Actually, I am not sure all my staff even had the first round of jabs. This is frustrating on one level but also I am sympathetic due to the quality of information we are given in the press. For example, when I had my booster I was given the choice. Pfizer or Moderna. I had read an article the day before that Pfizer was the better booster for the Oxford jab. The nurse giving me the jab thought I was wrong to take the Pfizer but I’d read it was the best. Then the next day I read that the Moderna was better and this morning I read again that the Pfizer was better. I’d like to write an expletive here.
I was discussing this very point with a friend of mine in Malaysia on Friday. The communication on this fourth wave is, at best, inconsistent. He told me that Vladimir Putin was announcing to the Russian people last week that Omicron is ‘the people’s vaccine’ and the general point being that cases were very mild, you’re all going to get it and the pandemic will be over. I couldn’t find any mention of President Putin’s speech on Google but it is a marked difference to the line the UK government is taking. I know which one I hope is right.
I hope that come the new year we are hearing stories like ‘after the last few weeks of data, we can announce that Omicron is no longer a serious threat.’ Let’s hope so because I’ve got lots of trade shows booked for 2022 and 50,000 pairs of glasses to sell.