Ma­jor Caith­ness em­ployer wel­comes new ap­pren­tices af­ter sales growth

The Scotsman - - Business - By HAN­NAH BUR­LEY

A Wick-based kitchen man­u­fac­turer is ex­pand­ing with an in­take of trainees this week, fol­low­ing a pe­riod of growth which saw an­nual sales hit more than £16 mil­lion.

Fam­ily-run firm Ash­ley Ann, which em­ploys 150 peo­ple at its Caith­ness head­quar­ters and is one of the largest pri­vate em­ploy­ers in the area, wel­comed a fur­ther five ap­pren­tices to its man­u­fac­tur­ing fa­cil­ity this week.

It re­ported turnover for the last fi­nan­cial year of £16.8m.

Es­tab­lished some 30 years ago by hus­band and wife team Stephen and Ellen Brem­ner, Ash­ley Ann now man­u­fac­tures around 3,600 kitchens per year. It has eight show­rooms in Scot­land, and sup­plies 105 deal­er­ships across the UK, with the ma­jor­ity of these south of the Bor­der.

Stephen Brem­ner said the com­pany’s flex­i­bil­ity means it can com­pete with its man­u­fac­tur­ing ri­vals in Ger­many.

He said: “Through­out the mar­kets we op­er­ate in, we’ve been able to demon­strate that our prod­uct qual­ity is ev­ery bit as good as that from the lead­ing Ger­man man­u­fac­tur­ers, but with us there’s the op­tion for truly be­spoke prod­ucts – which the Ger­mans just can’t cater for.

“In ad­di­tion, our lead times are typ­i­cally less and, given the level of qual­ity, our prices are very com­pet­i­tive.

“Although we’ve seen rea­son­able growth in re­cent years across the whole busi­ness, in our deal­er­ship mar­ket, es­pe­cially those lo­cated in south­east Eng­land, the growth has been ex­cel­lent and now rep­re­sents around 35 per cent of our turnover.”

Brem­ner is in the process of hand­ing the day-to-day run­ning of the com­pany to his two sons, though will re­main in a po­si­tion of chair­man.

He added: “Af­ter all these years I can re­flect on the dif­fer­ence I’ve been able to make to the Caith­ness econ­omy.”

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