A world-famous Alnwick brand has been reeled back from the brink with 40 jobs created in the past two years and production in the process of being brought back home.
Grant Harris, the UK and European managing director of Pure Fishing, which bought the Hardy and Greys brands a little over two years ago, has told the Gazette of the many positive developments that have taken place since then.
This includes transforming a loss-making business into one that has seen growth in the past two years, the taking on of a number of new employees and a return to producing reels and rods in the Alnwick plant after this was outsourced to Asia more than a decade ago.
These days, ‘there’s much more of a buzz about the place’, according to Mr Harris, a remarkable turnaround for a company that seemed to be heading for the end of the line.
In July 2013, Hardy and Greys and its subsidiary Hardy Advanced Composites was sold to US-based Pure Fishing, Inc. – a leading global provider of fishing products – for an undisclosed sum. At the time, a company spokesman said it was keen to maintain Alnwick as the headquarters of the business and there had been no discussion about any reorganisation or job losses.
However, just three months later, staff were told that up to 10 jobs were at risk, which came around two years after the company cut more than a quarter of its workforce and managing director Richard Sanderson resigned.
And Mr Harris admits that at that time, there was a great deal of concern and nervousness about the future of the company, both in the workforce and the wider community.
The integration of the Alnwick brands into the existing business necessitated some staffing changes and cuts, he added.
He continued: “In terms of revenue, we have almost doubled the size of the business and Hardy Advanced Composites has grown five-fold.
“Fishing is our core business, which is difficult at the moment, but we have seen growth in the last two years.
“Business is business; you have got to be positive, but you still have to be mindful that it is difficult out there.
“Confidence hasn’t been restored to what it was before 2008, but we are in a better position than we were last year.”
In February 2014, the process of merging Pure Fishing’s previous UK base in Redditch to Alnwick, was completed.
People have been taken on in both the fishing and composites sides of the business in Alnwick as well as through the expansion of the firm’s warehouse at Cramlington.
“There’s been a lot of opportunity there for the existing staff as well,” Mr Harris added.
Another key goal for Mr Harris was to bring back production to the UK and so far, a number of reels are now being produced on the shopfloor again, with more to follow, as well as rods – but it has to be done in stages.
“Hardy’s wouldn’t be Hardy’s if it wasn’t in Alnwick,” he said.
“The whole ‘made in Alnwick’ thing is so iconic to the product we sell around the world.”
Mr Harris is a keen fisherman and has been involved in the fishing tackle industry since he was 14, when among other things, he sold Hardy products.
“I understand the importance of the heritage of a brand like this,” he said. “We are just the custodians.”
And in case it sounds like another corporate boss telling people what he thinks they want to hear, one member of staff, who has worked for Hardy & Greys for a number of years, said that he didn’t think ‘we’d be here now if it wasn’t for Pure Fishing taking over’.
While Hardy & Greys is now part of the Pure Fishing stable, it in turn is owned by the Jarden Corporation, which has a wide portfolio of brands, ranging from camping stoves to baseball bats, balls and gloves.
Mr Harris said: “We have the support and backing of them, which really helps when we want to be the market leader in our field.”
It has helped them expand their sales in the US, but there are also decent overseas markets in the likes of Germany, Scandinavia and China.
Hardy Advance Composites does a lot of work for other companies as well as Government departments, particularly in medical and nautical fields.
“We are leaders within the carbon-composite industry,” Mr Harris said. “Anything that requires carbon tubing, we are at the forefront of the industry.”
Mr Harris, who is moving to the county, wants the company to support the community in Alnwick, where it plans to be for the foreseeable future, and this included a donation to support this year’s Christmas lights in the town.