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Production rockets at Hawick Knitwear

Increased demand for high-quality Scottish cashmere has boosted the fortunes of Hawick Knitwear, one of the UK’s largest knitwear companies.

The Scottish Borders-based company has increased production of jumpers from 7,500 per week in April last year to 9,500 per week.

Total turnover at the business, which produces scarves and jumpers for private-label customers as well as its eponymous own label, jumped 20% to £8m in the year to the end of March 2011.

Hawick Knitwear now employs more than 230 people after the rise in demand necessitated a 15% increase in factory and sales staff.

Managing director Benny Hartop, who bought the business from investment group Harris Watson in November, said the rise in production was due to “a bigger mix of higher-value cashmere sales both domestically and internationally”, and that increases had come via branded and private-label products.

He added that there was a growing demand for high-quality, well-made products.

Hawick Knitwear produces cashmere, merino wool and lambswool products for private-label customers domestically and abroad. It declined to provide details of customers.

Men’s lambswool products are the company’s best-selling category, with women’s lambswool coming second.

It launched own label Hawick Knitwear Brand for autumn 10, which already represents 25% of its business. Private label accounts for 75%.

The business is also ramping up its international presence with an export strategy that includes the EU, US, Japan, Mexico and Canada.

It has sales agents in nine countries and over the past six months has added agents in Sweden, Belgium and Spain.

David Breckenridge, chairman of industry body Textiles Scotland, said: “Customers come to Scotland for luxurious, well-designed and professionally made products.

“Hawick Knitwear’s success is a tremendous boost for the industry both in Scotland and beyond.”

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