Marks & Spencer’s potential investment in automation technologies could play a pivotal role in the revival of hosiery supplier Adria, one of the UK’s former manufacturing trailblazers.
Adria, once the largest hosiery supplier to M&S, was founded in 1961 by the late Rolf Noskwith, and closed down over a decade ago.
According to The Telegraph, Adria became a fashion industry pioneer by responding to the swinging Sixties trend for miniskirts with seam-free stockings, which ended below short hemlines.
For many years, Adria was Marks & Spencer’s biggest hosiery supplier.
The business was later sold to another clothing manufacturer, which moved production to Turkey, Bangladesh and later Cambodia.
The Telegraph reported that Rolf Noskwith’s son, Adrian, is leading plans to resurrect the site.
Reportedly, he has put together a team of former Adria and Marks & Spencer employees to launch a new hi-tech facility in Strabane, Northern Ireland, where the old plant was located for 45 years before closing down in 2006.
Noskwith has held detailed talks with Marks & Spencer about becoming the company’s main customer and is now trialling automated machinery to make tights.
As reported, the technology is expected to cost between £2m and £3m and would be financed by the entrepreneur and Northern Ireland’s government grant scheme.
As The Telegraph stated, Noskwith said that he believed that “automation is the only way we can bring manufacturing back to the UK”.
He said that the factory would still boost the local community as it would create jobs for engineers, support staff, transport and logistics workers.
Noskwith said: “There is a real knock-on effect and Strabane has the highest unemployment in the country.”
The Telegraph also reported that M&S boss Steve Rowe is keen to bring some of the chain’s manufacturing back to the UK, so that it can respond more quickly to fluctuating demand. He also believes big retailers can play a key part in boosting deprived areas.