Concerns over Lyle & Scott s future in Hawick

ROBERT KIMPTON: It is a positive move.

ROBERT KIMPTON: It is a positive move. TRADE Union concerns have been voiced about a major restructuring of Lyle & Scott Ltd.

It follows an internal announcement that the company, which has had three different owners in the past year but has remained one of the most buoyant in the textile sector, is to split into two divisions.

At present, 85% of production at Liddesdale Road - and the small satellite unit in Kelso - is devoted to the firm s trademark golf range of sweaters, endorsed by Europe s top player Lee Westwood.

However, the local factories will no longer be able to depend on that in house arrangement and will be expected to seek out new contract customers. The brand design team based in Hawick will be moved to London.

But although the formal link between production and brand will be broken, managing director Robert Kimpton will remain at the helm of both divisions - and he is determined each will succeed.

He said this week: We did not announce this change because it was seen as an internal matter, but it is a positive move which will sharpen our business focus, speed up the growth in Lyle & Scott brand sales and increase our operational efficiency.

Lyle & Scott Ltd will now be responsible for the development, marketing and distribution of the brand worldwide, while Ellaness Manufacturing Ltd will make garments in Hawick, where about 230 people are employed and 15% of output is currently devoted to contract customers including Johnstons of Elgin and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill.

GMBU district officer John Farries, however, has expressed serious concerns to senior management about the impact on the local workforce of the manufacturing side standing on its own.

On the face of it, it looks as if Hawick is about to lose its guarantee of work from its biggest customer - itself - while the contract market is ultra competitive with more and more companies sourcing cheaply abroad, he said. I believe the effect will not be known for at least six months and we will be monitoring the situation closely.

Mr Kimpton said Hawick would continue to be a supplier to the Lyle & Scott brand , but admitted the present ratio of work was likely to fall. The move will allow Ellaness to seek out new customers and, as managing director, I am determined it will succeed.