Wallcoverings firm pushes on with digital strategy; future of UK facility uncertain

Wallcoverings and soft furnishings supplier Graham & Brown has announced potential plans to close its Blackburn site as part of a digital-focussed strategy.

This new strategy includes an investment in digital technology at its state-of-the-art low-carbon production site in Padiham, Lancashire, which recently underwent a refurbishment and extension back in 2021 to create a digital production facility.

The plans also state that it would move its traditional wallcovering production to manufacturing partners in Europe, resulting in the closure of its production facility at India Mill in Blackburn, potentially impacting around 100 jobs.

Graham & Brown, which currently employees around 400 staff with 325 in the UK, said it has entered a consultation process with staff that could be impacted by the move. It aims to offer viable alternatives to reduce job losses.

The company, which has been established since 1946 and sells its products across 75 countries, added that the plans were a response to “ongoing structural change in the global wallcoverings market” with its digital printing site allowing for easier expansion and volume production to cater to increased demand.

Andrew Graham, CEO, said in a statement: “The global wallcoverings market has been undergoing structural change for many years due to the growth of online retail and the category’s contraction in physical retail, trends which have accelerated post-COVID. Consumers and retailers have also become even more environmentally conscious and are actively seeking more sustainable home interiors products.

“Due to reducing demand for traditionally-manufactured product and rising production inefficiencies as a direct result, our manufacturing operation at India Mill in Blackburn is no longer fit for purpose. Sadly, this means we need to explore the difficult decision to close the operation.

“Our team have investigated a number of specialist manufacturers – several of whom we have worked with for many years already – and we are confident they have the right capacity and capability to meet our needs. This would give us the flexibility and cost-efficiencies we need to continue serving this important part of the market even more strongly over the years ahead through our ongoing commitment to exceptional design development, customer service and category management.

“What remains paramount is that we continue to support colleagues during what will be a personally unsettling period. As a business that’s been innovating the market for over 75 years, we need to look ahead and respond to these changes to make sure Graham & Brown remains at the very forefront of our industry, with a more efficient, flexible, sustainable and digital-led operation capable of delivering our customers’ changing needs and meeting our ESG goals.

“We plan to continue growing and adapting the capacity of our new digital production facility over the coming years, which will ensure we can manufacture the most innovative, design-led wallpapers for our customers and fulfil our ambition to be the world’s leading wallcovering design house.”

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