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‘Huge’ interest as manufacturer launches hygiene stations for workplaces

PUBLISHED: 08:23 14 May 2020 | UPDATED: 08:23 14 May 2020

Displays being made at Fathom  Picture: SIMON BUCK

Displays being made at Fathom Picture: SIMON BUCK

Simon Buck/Fathom

A display manufacturer says reaction has been “phenomenal” as it gears up to go into full-scale production of hand sanitiser stations designed for workplaces and retail spaces as lockdown eases.

Hand sanitiser stations being manufactured by Fathom at Thetford  Picture: FATHOMHand sanitiser stations being manufactured by Fathom at Thetford Picture: FATHOM

Fathom, based at Thetford, specialises in designing and making displays and furniture for businesses, but sees a big new market for providing hand hygiene focal points for workers and customers – with a “huge” amount of interest in the products.

With strict hygiene protocols expected to stay in place for a long time to come across all sectors, director and owner Matt Cater saw a need for focal points instructing people on how to maintain safe working environments.

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The £6m turnover company, which employs just under 60 people, makes bespoke displays for a number of well-known brans including B&Q, Carpetright, home furnishing chain SCS, flooring specialist Karndean and more locally furniture retailer Glasswells and Norwich City Football Club.

With around £1.5m worth of future contracts wiped out in 72 hours due to the coronavirus crisis and most of his workforce on furlough, Mr Cater had to work out how to generate new work.

Matt Cater, director and owner of display and workspace furniture manufacturers Fathom  Picture: SIMON BUCKMatt Cater, director and owner of display and workspace furniture manufacturers Fathom Picture: SIMON BUCK

“We just got emails from all our larger customers saying business in on hold until further notice,” he said. “We as a business saw a huge order book evaporate overnight which obviously was concerning. As a business, we just stopped.”

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He kept on core staff and has slowly brought people back as the new project developed. He took a three-stage “survive, reset and relaunch” approach to the problem of how to re-emerge from the crisis, he said.

“I was scratching my head,” he said. The idea for the sanitiser stations came to him after he walked into a store during lockdown to see a bottle of sanitiser on a chair and thought that he could do better.

A worker on the shop floor at Thetford-based display and workspace furniture manufacturers Fathom  Picture: SIMON BUCKA worker on the shop floor at Thetford-based display and workspace furniture manufacturers Fathom Picture: SIMON BUCK

“The idea came about as stores and shops and offices slowly go back to work. They are going to have to provide a number of solutions,” he said. “It’s not just about the sanitiser, it’s about the bigger brand message.”

Although still in the marketing stage ready to go into production in the second half of May, the reaction has been very positive, he said.

“We have had a fabulous amount of interest,” he said. “I think everyone will have a need for something like this.”

The first prototypes are due to be ready shortly, and the company has received a “phenomenal” amount of interest nationally from car showrooms, hairdressing chains, large offices and retailers looking at ways to manage customers and staff post-lockdown.

Precision work at display manufacturers Fathom  Picture: SIMON BUCKPrecision work at display manufacturers Fathom Picture: SIMON BUCK

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