M&S tights may be made in the UK once again

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Front page - By Ash­ley Arm­strong

MARKS & SPENCER is con­sid­er­ing play­ing a piv­otal role in the re­vival of hosiery sup­plier Adria, one of the UK’S for­mer man­u­fac­tur­ing trail­blaz­ers.

Adria, which closed down over a decade ago, was founded in 1961 by the late Rolf Noskwith, a Bletch­ley Park code­breaker who went on to take over his fa­ther’s tex­tile busi­ness.

The com­pany be­came a fashion in­dus­try pi­o­neer by re­spond­ing to the swing­ing Six­ties trend for miniskirts with seam-free stock­ings, which ended be­low short hem­lines. For many years Adria was Marks & Spencer’s big­gest hosiery sup­plier. How­ever, it was later sold to an­other cloth­ing man­u­fac­turer, which moved pro­duc­tion to Tur­key, Bangladesh and later Cam­bo­dia.

Mr Noskwith’s son, Adrian, is lead­ing plans to res­ur­rect the site. He has put to­gether a team of for­mer Adria and Marks & Spencer em­ploy­ees to launch a new hi-tech fa­cil­ity in Stra­bane, North­ern Ire­land, where the old plant was lo­cated for 45 years be­fore clos­ing down in 2006.

Mr Noskwith has held de­tailed talks with Marks & Spencer about be­com­ing the com­pany’s main cus­tomer and is now tri­alling au­to­mated ma­chin­ery to make tights. The tech­nol­ogy is ex­pected to cost be­tween £2m and £3m and would be fi­nanced by the en­tre­pre­neur and North­ern Ire­land’s gov­ern­ment grant scheme.

Mr Noskwith said that he be­lieved that “au­to­ma­tion is the only way we can bring man­u­fac­tur­ing back to the UK”. He said that the fac­tory would still boost the lo­cal com­mu­nity as it would cre­ate jobs for en­gi­neers, sup­port staff, trans­port and lo­gis­tics work­ers. “There is a real knock-on ef­fect and Stra­bane has the high­est un­em­ploy­ment in the coun­try”, he said.

It is un­der­stood that M&S boss Steve Rowe is keen to bring some of the chain’s man­u­fac­tur­ing back to the UK, so that it can re­spond more quickly to fluc­tu­at­ing de­mand. He also be­lieves big re­tail­ers can play a key part in boost­ing de­prived ar­eas. How­ever, re­tail­ers face chal­lenges in re­cruit­ing skilled labour and en­sur­ing fac­to­ries are com­pli­ant with eth­i­cal stan­dards.

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