300 jobs to go at Axminster Carpets as historic company finally goes into administration
A historic Westcountry carpet manufacturer has finally gone into administration with the loss of 300 jobs, it has been announced.
The workforce at Axminster carpets was summoned to the factory canteen yesterday lunchtime, where company director Joshua Dutfield delivered the devastating news.
An unnamed buyer is said to be waiting in the wings to pluck the firm out of administration, keeping production going and retaining about 100 jobs.
But the redundancies will hit hard both in Axminster and at a yarn-spinning plant in Buckfast, where 100 posts are set to go and possibly another 50 at suppliers.
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The campaign manager for the union Community, which represents many of the staff, said the scale of job losses was "catastrophic".
Lorraine Gaskell, who was present when the news was broken at 2pm, said there was "confusion, dismay and upset".
She said workers were separated into two groups – those keeping their jobs and those to be sacked.
"I have known it to be done better," she said, "though there is no easy way to handle that kind of news.
"People were confused before the meeting started but when people were separated it was clear that something was going on.
"As a group they were strong – they stayed around in groups talking and supported each other – they didn't storm off."
The firm, which is synonymous with the Devon town in which it was founded in 1755, announced its intention to go into administration two weeks ago today.
Staff, who were told to keep working without pay until a rescue plan could be put together, predicted Axminster would become a "ghost town" without the plant.
The town's chamber of Commerce said the day would go down in the history of the town as "black Wednesday".
Rescue talks continued, a campaign was launched to lure prospective buyers and a handful of jobs were saved with the sell-off of sheepskin tannery arm, Devonia.
But in a statement released half an hour after staff were told on Tuesday, Axminster Carpets said: "The board of the company has taken the decision to place the company into administration following a sharp increase in raw material prices, the closure of a loss making subsidiary and a slight downturn in sales as a result of the continuing economic difficulties facing the UK."
A quarter of the workforce – some 100 employees – have been "retained by the administrators", the factory outlet stores remain open for business as usual and the company will "attempt to fulfil" existing customer orders where possible, it added.
Company director Joshua Dutfield added: "Trading has been difficult and although it saddens the board to make the decision to enter administration it could not be avoided.
"The management have been working with key suppliers, creditors and lenders to resolve the company's financial difficulties and whilst the last few weeks have been stressful, the company managed to pay the wages yesterday.
"We are now committed to working with the administrators to asses all viable options for the future of the business and achieve the best possible outcome for all concerned and most importantly the staff."
Tim Jones, chairman of the Heart of the South West local enterprise partnership (LEP), said it was "a very disappointing and sad day for many, many people".
He added: "I suppose the good news is that there is a phoenix-like company willing to buy it, so it looks as if the manufacturing plant can be saved."
Mr Jones said the impact on Buckfast could be "devastating" with a further 50 jobs at risk in related jobs.
"It's not just about the direct job losses – a local supply chain has risen in Buckfast over many, many years. Up to 50 jobs could be lost."
The Mayor of Axminster Andrew Moulding, said losing the brand was "not something I'm wishing to explore".