"THIS is my annual talk,” Lush boss Mark Constantine tells the Jobshop UK directors’ lunch. “I don’t do many talks any more.”

Lush’s managing director and co-founder has been speaking at the lunch once a year for 15 years – during which time his business has grown into a global retailer.

“I sort of see them as a therapy session a little bit. The business has changed quite a bit during that time,” he tells the Dorset business people at Poole’s Harbour Heights hotel.

“I suppose really I was amongst peers when I started in terms of the size of my business and the nature of my problems – because I didn’t have a particularly large business when I started and we had all the usual bits and bobs to worry about.

“Now I find other, different things to worry about.”

Mr Constantine, 65, chose this forum to announce an investment worth £13million in Poole. It has spent £4.6m buying an industrial unit at Witney Road, on the Nuffield Industrial Estate, and will spent another £8.4m “doing it up” as a test bed for innovation.

Called Unit 1 or 1 Lush, it will be a place where staff can try out ideas which can be in production within six to 12 weeks, as well as working on full-scale replicas of flagship stores.

3D printing technology will enable Lush to print both products and moulds, he says.

Lush is keen to stress this is a sign of the company’s commitment to the UK.

Mr Constantine’s strong views on Brexit – and his expansion of production in Germany – have left some with the impression that he had threatened to leave Britain.

“Everyone knows we weren’t moving to Germany but it was very convenient for us to have a German factory there ready to build up,” he insists.

“We’ve moved 20 per cent of our business to Germany with 80 of our staff, the ones who didn’t want to be living here.

“Fortunately for us, we’ve had a 25 per cent lift in our British business from last year. We’re enjoying considerable success and the British public are very, very kind to us, probably kinder than to anyone else on the high street at the moment, I would imagine.

“We’ve moved 20 per cent off, we’ve got 25 per cent extra coming in, therefore we’ve got five per cent spare.”

That, he says, is what has made the Poole investment possible.

His views on Brexit remain as strong as ever, however.

“I think the Conservatives are extraordinarily anti-business and I could never have imagined anything like it. They seem to have moved from a party of business to a party regarding immigration,” he said.

“If you have capitalism, you need freedom of movement of workers, capital and goods – you need that to function. If you take a bit of that capitalism and put it in the bin, you’re going to have conflicts.

“I feel sympathy with Theresa May. She doesn’t seem well. There should be a facility in place where you don’t have to dance till you drop.”

Fifty per cent of Lush’s staff are not British, and it was a “godsend” when labour started arriving from Eastern Europe. “Otherwise we wouldn’t have been here, I suspect,” he said.

Earlier this year, Lush decided to pay the Living Wage – the voluntary one decided independently by the Living Wage Foundation, rather than the government’s lower version.

It has just about managed to recruit the 800 extra local staff it needs to meet Christmas demand, but it has been a struggle, he says.

On the subject of Brexit, he takes a swipe at Sir James Dyson, the Brexit-supporting businessman who recently announced he was interested in producing electric cars. Eighty per cent of Dyson vacuum cleaners are made in Malaysia, he says.

“How does he get to make any comment about Brexit? It’s disgraceful. When he makes his electric cars, he says he’ll make that in Britain. Promises, promises. Make your bloody hoovers in Britain.”

Mr Constantine says he still vividly remembers the experience of his previous Poole-based business, Cosmetics To Go, being liquidated.

“If you have the misfortune to lose a business, in the end it’s just you. There’s no one else because the receivers have fired everybody else,” he says.

He remembers the final meeting with the official receiver at Richmond Hill. “I put my hand out to shake his and he wouldn’t take it. It stays with you.”

Lush was started by seven people, 22 years ago, after that failure. “When people ask what was my motivation, I was broke. My motivation was to pay the mortgages I still had and make a living,” he says.

“We’ve enjoyed enormous support from the Echo. My mum used to work at the Dorset Evening Echo and I enjoyed considerable support, especially when Cosmetics To Go went bust.”

He remembers a comment by Echo journalist Faith Eckersall. “The writer was kind enough to say ‘If this business is going, what’s the world coming to?’ That was a bit of encouragement.”

Business people like him have something called an “entrepreneur’s wound”, he believes.

“People come up and ask for advice, how can I be an entrepreneur? I wouldn’t recommend it. I don’t’ think it’s healthy.”