Har­ris Tweed ‘very strong’ de­spite drop

Chair­man up­beat as turnover falls in Ja­pan down­turn

The Press and Journal (North-East) - - BUSINESS - BY KEITH FINDLAY

Har­ris Tweed He­brides (HTH) chair­man Brian Wil­son in­sisted yes­ter­day the busi­ness re­mained strong de­spite man­age­ment ex­pec­ta­tions of a pos­si­ble fall in net prof­its this year.

The for­mer en­ergy min­is­ter was speak­ing af­ter ac­counts from Com­pa­nies House showed the firm grew pre-tax prof­its on lower turnover dur­ing 2016.

Mr Wil­son, who was drafted in as chair­man at the firm’s launch nearly 10 years ago, said per­for­mance was im­pacted by a down­turn in the Ja­panese mar­ket.

Ja­pan is the com­pany’s big­gest im­porter of HTH hand-wo­ven wool­lens, but Mr Wil­son said the coun­try’s clam­our for au­then­tic Har­ris Tweed had waned as a re­sult of more man­u­fac­tur­ers try­ing to feed de­mand.

He added: “If some­thing be­comes very pop­u­lar, you risk some di­lu­tion of the sta­tus of the prod­uct. There has maybe just been too much of it about, and not al­ways at the high end.”

Sales in the UK were “very strong” and HTH was “work­ing on other mar­kets,” he said.

The firm is on the verge of an­nounc­ing a ma­jor col­lab­o­ra­tion aimed at grow­ing sales to other parts of Europe.

Mr Wil­son said: “There are places which are cur­rently dif­fi­cult for us to reach, coun­tries where we should have a mar­ket but are not di­rectly rep­re­sented.”

Brexit may in­ter­fere with ef­forts to grow sales in the Euro­pean Union, how­ever, and Mr Wil­son said the com­pany did not wish to see bar­ri­ers to trade.

De­spite the com­pany warn­ing of a pos­si­ble drop in turnover and prof­its in 2017, its chair­man said HTH was “in a very strong place”.

“We’ve just com­pleted a £2.4mil­lion in­vest­ment in ex­pan­sion and are hop­ing to see the ben­e­fits of that,” he added.

Har­ris Tweed can only be pro­duced in the Outer He­brides by weavers work­ing in their own homes. The cloth is then fin­ished in is­land mills.

HTH is the largest pro­ducer, em­ploy­ing about 90 peo­ple at its mill at North Shaw­bost and pro­vid­ing work for a fur­ther 140 home-based weavers.

The mill had been in moth­balls be­fore Scot­tish oil entrepreneur Ian Tay­lor funded the restart of pro­duc­tion by HTH in late 2007, with Mr Wil­son com­ing in as chair­man.

Re­cent ex­pan­sion of the site in­cluded a new dye house and up­grades to ware­house fa­cil­i­ties and equip­ment.

HTH’s ac­counts show pre-tax prof­its rose to £2.43mil­lion last year, from £2.23mil­lion in 2015.

But turnover fell to £10.54mil­lion in the lat­est pe­riod, from £10.91mil­lion pre­vi­ously.

The com­pany is con­trolled by Mr Tay­lor, who is both chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive of £112bil­lion turnover en­ergy and com­mod­ity trad­ing com­pany Vi­tol.

In his an­nual busi­ness re­view for HTH, Mr Tay­lor said the firm ben­e­fited from con­tin­ued de­mand for Har­ris Tweed in all its ma­jor mar­kets.

But he added: “The com­pany con­tin­ues to face in­creased price com­pe­ti­tion ... and main­tain­ing out­put off-sea­son is chal­leng­ing.

“This could lead to a re­duc­tion in turnover and net profit in 2017, but the busi­ness re­mains strong.”

“£2.4mil­lion in­vest­ment in ex­pan­sion and are hop­ing to see the ben­e­fits”

FA­MOUS BRAND: Har­ris Tweed He­brides is work­ing on ex­pand­ing its sales in Europe af­ter sales in Ja­pan de­creased

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