James Oliver invests in the future

(From left to right:) Simon Ahearn, general manager of James Oliver Conservatories; Zack, apprentice bricklayer; Tom Oliver, managing director of James Oliver Conservatories; and Lloyd, apprentice bricklayer

After securing a £1m sales boost this year, James Oliver Conservatories – an independent home improvement specialist based in the East Midlands – has invested in its workforce by taking on two new apprentices as part of a recruitment drive. James Oliver’s employee numbers rose from 35 to 50 since the end of lockdown. The business has also invested more than £250,000 in a new showroom on Crofton Road in Lincoln.

Part of the Conservatory Outlet retail network, the company has taken on Lloyd and Zack as apprentice bricklayers, to ensure that the skills and knowledge of its skilled tradespeople is passed down to the next generation. The move is also aimed at helping expand the business’ fitting team so that they can better cope with rising demand for home improvements. Interest has risen across all the firm’s product lines, including replacing conservatory roofs with solid roofs.

“The last 12 months have been some of our busiest in our 40-year history,” explained Simon Ahearn, general manager of James Oliver Conservatories. “We’ve seen orders from all over the region, from the Lincolnshire coast across to Mansfield and parts of north Nottinghamshire. Ramping up activity has been a nice but difficult challenge, and we’ve found we need more staff in all parts of the business to make sure we can complete existing projects and deliver new work in timescales the clients are happy with.”

He continued: “We’ve taken on a lot of experienced people, but also recognised the need to grow our own staff. This has seen us invest in Lloyd and Zack, working with Lincoln College to help deliver a mix of practical and theoretical training, boosted by an internal mentoring programme with senior colleagues.”

James Oliver started the business more than 40 years ago, using his joinery background to launch a conservatory company that is now headed up by his sons, Tom and Will Oliver. The Lincolnshire firm transformed its 17,500ft² showroom during lockdown to include 14 living space displays and a new specialist lighting centre. It also launched an indoor furniture range to complement existing external products.

Simon went on to add: “Being part of the Conservatory Outlet network of retailers has been instrumental in our growth, giving us lots of external advice, help in creating a 3D walkthrough of our showroom, and industry-leading marketing support. The latter has been extremely useful, generating more than 2000 new leads in the last 12 months, many of which have been converted into actual sales. This has seen us move from being worried about a potential drop in orders when Covid-19 struck, to trying to manage our best ever year.”

Greg Kane, Conservatory Outlet’s CEO, added: “James Oliver is a superb family business, delivering some of the highest quality home improvement projects in the East Midlands. The management team embraced our desire to be proactive during the first lockdown, and are now reaping the dividends, investing in new staff. I’m delighted to see they are training the fitters of the future.

“It certainly has one eye on the next 40 years, and this is reflected in its approach to creating a greener environment through the upgrading of its commercial fleet to all electric vehicles, installing a range of charging facilities at its showroom, and aiming to plant 1,000 trees over the next 12 months.” For further information about the business, visit .jamesoliverhome.co.uk. Information about Conservatory Outlet can be found at conservatoryoutlet.co.uk.