Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 27 December 2014

Alan Davison, Managing Director, Portview Fit-out

A better economic climate could give us more certainty

Alan Davison believes that when business expands after the economic downturn, the skills shortage in the construction industry will present problems
Alan Davison believes that when business expands after the economic downturn, the skills shortage in the construction industry will present problems

HOW'S BUSINESS? Business is very good for us at the moment. Last year we had a 40% uplift in turnover and a greater than proportional increase in profits. We mainly service the retail sector, so this year is unlikely to be as good as last. However, we have picked up several important new clients so the downturn is unlikely to affect us as much as it could.

ANY EXCITING PROJECTS IN THE PIPELINE?

We have some very exciting new projects coming up. We have won several departmental refurbishments in a well known store in Knightsbridge, London, for example. We are also involved in the worldwide expansion of an upscale Irish café chain. Early projects include branches in Dubai, Karachi, and New York City, with further cities being considered. We are also involved in several fit-outs in brand new shopping centres in London, Bristol and Liverpool.

WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FACING YOUR |ORGANISATION?

The major challenge facing our company in the short term is the slowdown in consumer spending with retailers. I think spending will decline this year and probably through next year as well. This will challenge companies such as ours which depend on successful retailers for business.

When business expands again, after the downturn, I think the skills shortage in the construction industry as a whole will once more become a problem. In the recent past this shortage has been filled by foreign labour. I think that in future, employers in the industry need to train more people in our indigenous workforce.

WHAT ARE THE LONG TERM PROSPECTS FOR YOUR COMPANY?

Long term prospects look good for our company. We are building a strong reputation in the retail fit-out sector, having won several major awards for quality of product and service. Market share is building steadily for us and we are now one of the major companies of our type in the UK. We are also looking at other sectors with a view to increasing our presence in the restaurant, hotel, office, museum and leisure fit-out markets.

COULD THE GOVERNMENT HELP YOU TO DO BUSINESS BETTER?

The best thing the government could do would be to create a better economic climate in the country and give certainty to people. There is not much they can do about global inflation but a lot they can do to help stabilise the housing market. People are not spending money because they are fearful for the future. This is harming the retailers and therefore making our business more difficult.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WORK FOR YOU?

People like working for our company because we give them freedom to take responsibility for their work. We pay them well and they share in the financial rewards they help create for the company. Our workplace is busy, there is a good atmosphere and people get on well together.

YOUR VIEWS ON THE ECONOMY, PLEASE.

The news at the moment is dominated by stories about the economy. All of them are negative. The credit crunch is more than a year old now and still causing big problems, particularly in the property market. Peoples’ feelings of financial well-being are greatly affected by the prices of their homes. Falling house prices make people feel insecure and fearful for the future.

Add in the global inflation problem and the prospects do not look good for the next year or two.

THE BUSINESS CLIMATE — GOOD OR BAD?

Since the general business climate is dependent on the economic cycle, then at present it is not good.

WHAT AMBITIONS DO YOU HAVE ON A PERSONAL LEVEL?

My business ambition is to have Portview Fit-Out become the best company of its type in the UK and Ireland and recognised as such. On a personal front, I would like finally to learn to play the guitar!

WHAT DO YOU GET UP TO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?

I have three sons aged between 10 and 16. A large part of my free time is taken up travelling to and watching junior sporting activities. I enjoy travelling with my family in Europe and North America. I am an avid reader and get through about two books a week — usually boring stuff about business!

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