One of Australia’s largest uniform suppliers converts his longstanding affection for the airline into rewards for his staff.
Since its beginnings in 2004, Shawl GroupOpens external site in a new window has opened four office-showrooms in Australia and another in New Zealand – and there’s only one way its founder, Ash Jones, likes to fly his staff between them.
Why does Shawl Group choose to fly Qantas?
I’ve been loyal to Qantas my whole life, a Frequent Flyer since 1988. That’s because it’s Australian and there’s comfort to the brand. True story: I had a date once in Melbourne when I was 23 and had no money. I took her to the Qantas Club for drinks and snacks and we felt like king and queen.
When you took your date to the Qantas Club, you were a young Melbourne fashion agent. How did you come to lead one of Australia’s largest uniform suppliers?
I worked on Flinders Lane for almost seven years but then Michael Gannon, who owned Perri Cutten and Blazer, asked me to run Neat ’n Trim Uniforms, now NNT, an old-fashioned brand in Noble Park. I said, “No way.” And he said, “Ash, you’ll love it. It’s commerce on steroids.” He knew that I am a merchant at heart, addicted to commerce. We tripled the turnover in my four years there and we sold it for $35 million.
When did you think, “I want my own business”?
By the time I was 39, I wanted to change the way the uniform industry worked. We adopted the internet while others were still dubious about it. We waded hard into digital images and communication and that’s always been our way. We’re not saying we’ll do it faster than everyone but we are quick to communicate and can turn things around efficiently. In this industry, things have to arrive on time, especially safety products such as protective gloves or blood-resistant uniforms. In fashion you can say, “We’re not making that orange shirt because we only sold 15” but in this industry you need to make things in XXXS or 7XL. You have to look after everybody.
Beyond your affection for it, why Qantas?
I feel my loyalty has been reciprocated. Qantas “get” business. They want to move us through the airport efficiently and find better ways to check us in, better ways to communicate changes. That’s why I think they’re pro-business. I haven’t had that experience with other airlines.
Flexible access: One of Jones’s favourite aspects of the Qantas Business Rewards program is the ease of managing travel for his business. “Now that we are expanding rapidly, more departments are able to manage their own travel,” says Jones. “Before, I did the bookings. This is a more streamlined process.”
Wins for workers: Shawl Group uses points mostly for upgrades – a practice that means a lot to the company’s 65 staff members. “We are proud of the fact that the first time many of our people fly Business or go to the First Class Lounge is because they’re working for Shawl Group.”
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