Gifts Today magazine

John Athwal awarded OBE

Managing Director of Premier Decorations recognised in New Year's Honours List

Premier Decorations MD John Athwal has been honoured by the Queen in the New Year’s Honours List, having been made an OBE for his services to business and charity.

The Order Of The British Empire recognises John’s outstanding contribution to the British economy for his thriving Christmas supply business, now employing 84 permanent staff and 250 during the delivery season as the company celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2018.

Set for its annual appearance at the Harrogate Christmas & Gift Fair, which runs from January 14-17, Premier Decorations has twice appeared in the Sunday Times Profit Track for the fastest-growing profitable companies, and once in the International track 200 for the fastest-growing exporters.

Having already been named Asian Of The Year in 2010, this latest decoration also recognises John for his philanthropy helping UK charities, including the Make A Wish Foundation, which grants wishes to youngsters with life-threatening conditions; the toy industry’s Fence Club, who help sick and disadvantaged children; Action For Children, who help the 100,000 or so youngsters sleeping rough every year; the Loomba Foundation; Children With Cancer, and diabetes charity Silver Star.

John said: 'Receiving an OBE is a fantastic tribute and I’m overwhelmed to have been recognised and nominated by colleagues and peers. Life has not always been as easy as it is today – having arrived at the age of eight in the UK in 1961 with my parents from very humble beginnings in Punjab, I have embraced the opportunities this country has offered me, and it only feels right to give a little something back to society.'

The self-confessed workaholic found a job as a trainee manager in a filling station at a time when they generally only sold fuel, and he recognised the potential to stock add-on merchandise such as jackets, briefcases, garden accessories, bread, and milk.

Eventually he was promoted to the board of directors at the age of 29 as the business he helped establish wholesaling non-petrol products was selling to 2,500 filling stations across the UK and he set up an importing arm too.

A few years later, John was approached by a friend who didn’t have the funds to fulfil an order to supply Christmas decorations to Asda. After travelling to factories in Taiwan, John decided to form Premier Decorations – the UK’s first Christmas brand and one which remains a market leader for this type of product today.

This year, Premier celebrates its 30th anniversary, while John celebrates his own 65th and is still an ever-present figure in the company, supporting his staff and guiding the company strategy although no longer working full-time in the office.

He added: 'Professionally I think I have achieved most of my ambitions – and receiving an OBE really has capped it all. I will continue to be active in both my business and charitable work, but also look forward to spending more time in the future with my wife Jito, children and grandchildren.'

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