‘Hopefully we’re past the worst’, says upbeat boss

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MILL boss Benny Hartop believes the local knitwear industry could to be coming out of the doldrums.

The managing director of Hawick Knitwear has spoken of a successful year for the factory, and says he has high hopes for the months ahead – which seems to be the same story for other local firms.

Mr Hartop, who took over the Liddesdale Road mill in a management buyout in November, told the Hawick News: “We’ve had a particularly busy last 12 months and the outlook for 2011 is that we will be the same.

“Obviously I’m making these comments before all the orders have come in and it’s early days, but I think the feedback and the reaction we’re getting has been positive, and we’ll be fairly busy.”

Alluding to a possible change in fortunes for the whole of Hawick’s recession-hit textiles industry, Mr Hartop said: “We’ve had a lot of bad news over the last few years, but hopefully we’re past the worst.”

And this is despite the spiralling cost of raw materials and a crippling recession. “People are coming back to quality knitwear, they are wanting to buy something that lasts”, added Mr Hartop.

Johnston’s managing director Nick Bannerman has also attributed this factor to their continued success, with the firm expecting to top last year’s growth. “We are very busy and coming off the back of a good year when we increased turnover by 10 per cent. We are looking to be up again this year”, he stated.

“Our order book is such that we anticipate another busy year”.

The Mansfield Road mill boss says confidence has returned to America, and whilst highlighting that the luxury end of the market continues to boom, said: “All parts of the business are strong, and we are certainly bucking the trend. Although prices are up, we are finding that people still want to buy the Johnstons product, because they want to invest in a decent brand.”

Through Drapers magazine, Hawick Knitwear was the second best-selling knitwear brand in men’s independent stores for the week ending December 31, and was the fifth top brand across all products.

It is understood that other mills in the town including William Lockie’s, Barrie and Hawick Cashmere are busy.