Finest Brands championing growth with £1.35 million investment
A leading supplier of equestrian riding hats, body protectors, and sportswear and outdoor fashions has relocated to new premises in Hunslet, Leeds, with the help of a £90,000 grant from the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership. The grant support will help keep the company in Leeds, retain existing jobs and create additional employment as the company expands.
Finest Brands are the latest of many businesses who have taken advantage of the range of business support available through the LEP. Over 4,300 businesses in the City Region have already been supported to grow with LEP help to recruit apprentices, gain grants for capital expenditure, upskill their teams and explore new markets. To date, 600 businesses have taken advantage of over £2million funding to train their workforce to increase competitive advantage.
Finest Brands International is the exclusive supplier of the ‘Champion’ range of British-made high performance riding hats and body protectors for the horse riding, show jumping and horse racing markets. It is also the exclusive supplier of the ‘Toggi’ brand of clothing and footwear to a network of over 800 wholesalers and retailers across the UK.
Clients of the £8 million turnover business include three-time Olympic medallist Pippa Funnell and many other prolific riders such as champion jockey Ruby Walsh, who has ridden over 2000 winners, while Toggi has been the official partner of the Great Britain equestrian team for over ten years.
Managing director Sarah-Jane Fedarb said: “Finest Brands has been based at our previous premises in Leeds since the company was set up in 1990. However, the site had become far too small and we needed to lease additional warehouse facilities to cope with the growth of the business and increasing diversity of our product range.
“The inability to expand at our former site presented problems, with the ever-increasing demand for quick turnaround of our range of high quality and performance products, and the desire to offer same day despatch to our retail partners. As we were approaching the end of our lease, it made sense to consolidate operations in a single location to improve customer service and ensure we afforded ourselves room to grow the business in future.”
Since moving to its new premises, which comprise 50,000 sq ft of warehouse space and 8,000 sq ft of offices, the company has strengthened its workforce with a number of new appointments including a new project manager and an assistant warehouse manager.
Permanent contracts have also been offered to four warehouse operatives previously employed on a temporary basis to help with the relocation project, increasing the workforce in Leeds, in addition to an eight-strong sales team based across the UK. Over the next twelve months Finest Brands International expects to expand its product design, online marketing and customer services teams.
Growth is being fuelled by increasing demand for both Champion and Toggi products in the UK and overseas. Champion’s handmade safety products are heavily in demand, with a new concept body protector called ‘Ti22’, launched in February 2016 quickly becoming a best seller.
The Toggi brand features the iconic ‘Team GBR’ and ‘Heritage’ Collections, together with specialist equestrian wear, high performance footwear and a full range of women’s, men’s and children’s quality lifestyle clothing and footwear.
Sales are also growing through online partnerships in the UK, Europe and worldwide, with Germany and the US equestrian markets showing particularly strong sales potential which can be maximised from the new site.
Finest Brands International has invested £1.35 million in the relocation and customisation of the new premises, funded through a commercial mortgage, director’s loans and grant funding through the LEP business growth programme, which provides support for investment in business growth and employment creation.
Managing director Sarah-Jane Fedarb said: “We had the option to move the business to Cardiff where our Champion products are manufactured and the company already owns land and premises. However, we were desperate to retain our long standing and loyal team, and build our workforce as the business grows in Leeds.
“The grant support has been critical in helping us keep the business and jobs here in Leeds and, with the new premises just a couple of miles from where we were previously based, we are pleased that we have retained all our staff.”
The new premises are the former operations base for packaging and logistics company Samuel Grant Ltd, which earlier this year moved to a new, purpose-built warehouse and head office facility in the Leeds City Region Enterprise Zone after 50 years at the site in Hunslet.
Eric Hawthorn, managing director of Radio Design and chair of the LEP's Business Innovation and Growth panel, said:
“This is another fantastic example of how the LEP is supporting a local business to invest in premises that are fit for purpose, so existing jobs are retained and create new employment and business opportunities. The LEP can support businesses based in the region who want to grow or upskill their staff. All you need to do is pick up the phone and speak to one of our business support team who can talk through the options available.”
If you are a business who would like to explore support your business may be eligible for, please get in contact on 0113 348 1818 or email businessgrowth@the-LEP.com.