High tech future for firm

It is 229 years old and operates from one of the oldest factories in the world – but knitwear firm John Smedley is focused on a hi-tech, global future.

The Matlock, Derbyshire, company was founded at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and it aims to continue a long tradition of making money thanks

to £500,000 from Santander Corporate and Commercial.

The award-winning manufacturer of fine gauge knitwear, which holds a Royal Warrant, plans to use the money to extend its product range and set up an apprentice scheme.

The funding comes at a good time: the financial performance of the company – which is still family- owned – has improved over recent years, despite a challenging consumer market, and it is looking to hire staff to meet increasing global demand.

Today, the firm’s products are distributed in more than 40 countries with a strong market presence in Japan, Europe and the USA.

It was awarded ‘premium brand of the year’ by industry bible Drapers in November.

The business currently has 400 employees and £17m turnover.

Managing director Ian Maclean is a descendant of founder John Smedley.

He said: “John Smedley is one of the UK’s great ‘Made in Britain’ clothing brands and we are benefiting from increased international and online sales resulting from our commitment to quality, innovation and design.

“We are gaining in confidence as global economic conditions improve and are looking to invest further, with the help of Santander, in growing our business and brand in the future.”

Jon Bennett, of Santander, said: “We are delighted to be working with such an historic UK brand, a business rooted in the heart of Derbyshire – one that is investing for growth and with such a strong identity.

“We have a real keenness to help John Smedley achieve its growth objectives and I’m sure the business will continue to grow both in the UK and on a global basis.”

Staff at the firm’s Lea Mills factory in Matlcock include workers from a long line of local families who have worked for John Smedley for generations.

Peak District spring water is credited with creating the trademark luxurious feel of the firm’s garments.