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A weaver’s tale
Marton Mills enhances its offer through the buyout of textile supplier Cedric Roberts.

By Laura Turner

7 October 2016

Founded in 1931 on Marton Street in Skipton, North Yorkshire, Marton Mills is a business steeped in tradition and heritage, yet one that wholeheartedly embraces innovation and evolution. Constant change and investment is in the company’s DNA, making it ever-responsive to market demands.
 
In the 1980s, the business moved to Pool Mills in Wharfedale, West Yorkshire, where it continues to thrive today. Through respect for traditional values and a continuous investment programme in technology, plant machinery and people, it has evolved into a strong family business with a laudable reputation as a British weaver of quality fabric. In addition to its proactive approach and a strong management team, its ‘Made in Britain’ status is the other key factor behind its success, along with short lead times due to flexibility of production, no minimum order levels on stock supported lines and an in-house design team creating bespoke fabrics. 
 
“Marton Mills is one of a few remaining British mills,” says company MD Laura Watts. “Operating 24 hours a day, six days a week, we produce in excess of 20,000 metres of fabric each week. The mill provides a fully integrated service; all processes are managed in-house ensuring continuity of quality, supply and service. By offering a stock supported range with no minimum order level, we are able to provide large scale flexibility in production, from bespoke short runs through to bulk supply in a variety of compositions and designs. This, in addition to the skill of the in-house design team that create bespoke designs for schools, gives a level of responsiveness and scope for innovation seldom found in the textile industry.”
 
In terms of schoolwear, Marton Mills specialises in Trevira Perform yarn, which is used extensively in poly wool blazer fabrics. Its properties ensure the garments retain their shape, are easy care, low-pill, hard-wearing and crease resistant. Having a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the schoolwear market ensures that all fabric woven – from poly viscose tartan for skirts to pure wool tweed for blazers – is of the optimum standard required by schools today. This is where Marton Mills’ recent buyout of textile supplier Cedric Roberts comes into play, promising to enhance the company’s schoolwear offer even further.
 
Established in 1992 following the takeover of Courtaulds by Drummonds, Cedric Roberts mainly supplied pool cloth and later expanded into the blazer and uniform trade, providing Meltons and face finish fabrics. Due to the price sensitive trade, it had to start importing partially manufactured fabric from Europe, but maintained control over dyeing and finishing in the UK. 
 
Having been a customer of Cedric Roberts for many years, Marton Mills knew it would be a good fit for the company and so two years ago, it made a proposition to him when he was ready to retire. 
 
“The deal completed on 31 July, with Cedric Roberts continuing as a consultant offering his technical expertise,” says Laura Watts.
 
The buyout, and the subsequent addition of the wool Melton range, will further extend Marton Mills’ offer to the schoolwear industry. The high quality fabric, which is woven in Europe and dyed and finished in the UK, perfectly complements Marton Mill’s wool range. It includes luxury blends in a range of weights suitable for blazers and outerwear.
 
“The launch of new-style academies has the potential to drive schoolwear sales, as many of these institutions have introduced stricter uniform policies, with pupils required to dress more smartly,” says Watts, on her view of the current school uniform market. “There is obvious uncertainty following Brexit; fabric costs have increased due to the exchange rate affecting raw materials. It will no doubt affect offshore CMT costs, too. It would be exciting to see the return of more garments made in the UK as a result.
 
“The schoolwear market has been gradually changing as a result of the rising influence of the main supermarket chains, which has led to the price of school uniform garments falling over the last few years,” she continues. “Aggressive price wars between supermarkets have meant that other key players in the sector, such as high street retailers, department stores and specialist retailers have been affected.”
 
As well as the buyout, Marton Mills has enjoyed other exciting news recently, receiving the Family Business of the Year Award 2016 in the Luxury Goods section. Recognised for its diverse role in the broader sector of textile manufacturing, Marton Mills was judged to be demonstrating a clear commitment, not just to the future of the business, but the sector as a whole. The business also won the Made in UK category at the 2016 Professional Clothing Awards. 
 
So what next for the award–winning weaving mill? “The plan is to consolidate on recent growth and look to new markets,” concludes Watts. “Schoolwear fabric accounts for over half the business at Marton Mills and remains the priority. The aim is to provide an unrivalled level of service in this industry. Having recently exhibited at Premiere Vision in Paris, this opens up the global market in both fashion and high street brands.”


 
 
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