PPE Sales Bolster Forfar Textile Firm

A Tayside textile firm has launched a recruitment drive as figures reveal it has invested £20 million over the past three years.

Newly filed accounts for Forfar-based Don and Low show turnover at the firm rose to £66.4m for the year ending December 31, 2019 – an increase of 2.4% from 2018.

However, pre-tax figures saw the firm fall into the red from £1.2m profit in 2018, to a £48,000 loss last year.

An exceptional item of redundancy and related costs amounting to £773,000 tipped the firm into loss.

Last week, the firm announced it was recruiting 15 staff on temporary contracts to meet production demands for Covid-19–related PPE equipment.

The firm said it has seen a strong response from applicants for the roles which are expected to last for six months.

Speaking in the annual report, director Colin Johnson said: “The group is implementing a clearly defined strategic plan that is designed to take the group into the future on a sustainable and profitable path.”

Mr Johnson said a significant capital investment programme that has seen the firm expand and upgrade production facilities across the business.

He said: “The financial performance of 2019 was affected by the restructuring that is underway but also from the some external factors that were not fully anticipated.

“In general, raw material costs and energy costs high, and trading conditions particularly in the carpet backing sector were subdued.

“Under the capital investment programme more than £20m has been invested in the past three years.”

Mr Johnson also pointed to a reduced demand in the carpet backing market due to a move towards hard flooring and a worldwide shift towards supply from lower cost countries.

He said: “The process to fully integrate and establish the new equipment continues but the group is satisfied that the move to more capital intensive manufacturing is the correct one for the long term benefit of the business.

“As part of this process it was necessary to make a number of redundancies during the year.”

In June the firm announced a round of redundancies after a slump in demand for their woven products, although it created 30 new roles in its non-woven division of after increased demand for products used in PPE items.

At the time, Mr Johnson said: “The decision to reduce the size of the workforce in the wovens part of the business has not been taken lightly, however, it should be seen in the context of an investment programme of around £40m that continues to create additional jobs on the non-woven side of the business.”

In May, the Scottish Government announced contracts between NHS Scotland and local companies, aiming to strengthen and expand the supply of vital protective gowns made in the country in a bid to secure long-term stock levels.

Don and Low were contracted to make around 2.8 million square metres of the base material required to make the gowns.

The firm was founded in 1792 and holds 47 registered patents and trademarks.

The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Thrace Plastics Company SA.

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