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Grenfell pushes button on UK wholesale relaunch

Outerwear brand Grenfell will revive its UK wholesale arm next year, as owner Mohammed Azam looks to grow its London manufacturing operation.

The British heritage company has strong export sales with Grenfell to about 150 stockists in Japan, France, Switzerland, the US, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany, but is best known at home for making for other brands, including Oliver Spencer.

Azam aims to relaunch wholesale in the UK for autumn 15, targeting retailers such as Harrods, Liberty and Manchester menswear store Oi Polloi. He said his ambition is to have a flagship store in London within 18 months if the launch is a success.

Azam believes there is a strong demand for Made in Britain product. He intends to increase capacity by moving from Grenfell’s 33,000 sq ft factory in Bow, east London, where it has been for 23 years, to a new base in east or north London of between 40,000 and 50,000 sq ft. “We have a lot of potential that we’re not fully exploiting,” he said.

The business employs about 30 people, but Azam said up to 70 more will be needed over the next six to 12 months to meet increased production targets. A team of merchandisers, product managers, designers and PR staff will be brought in, and new production staff trained. Azam’s sons Mo and Sultan joined the business about three years ago.

Grenfell took part in website Make it British’s recent Meet the Manufacturer event for UK producers, and Mo said he was pleasantly surprised by the enthusiastic response: “So many brands came to us because they want to manufacture in the UK. We had visits from Aquascutum, Jack Wills, Ted Baker … we took home about 100 business cards.”

Grenfell is the trading name for Haythornthwaite & Sons, which was founded as a weaving mill in 1908 in Brierfield, near Burnley. Mohammed Azam, who has been in clothing manufacturing since 1973, acquired the business from its previous Japanese owners in 2002.

Wholesale prices for autumn 15 are expected to be in line with current prices, which range from £150 for a Harrington jacket to £650 for an alpaca-lined coat.

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