Fred Tongue visits a British textile manufacturer with more than one string to its bow.
Based in Nottingham, a city renowned during the British Empire for its Lace Market, one UK company is bringing textiles back to the city.
Precision Stitching is best known for its ‘Great Bean Bags’ range. As the name suggests, it makes bean bags, but it also boasts the largest hand-made range in Europe. However, this is only part of the operation.
The business is following the trend of many emerging SMEs that are well known for one product, but diversify to generate other revenue streams.
“It’s hard to explain exactly what we do,” creative director Patrick Tonks told me, “The easiest thing to say is, ‘we do beanbags.’”
When I asked what he meant, it soon became clear why it was difficult to put a label on the company.
Ray Armstrong, managing director, started by explaining the roots of the company. “We actually started as a parachute equipment manufacturing company, because I’m an advanced parachutist.” Armstrong explained that after leaving the Royal Air Force, he only really knew one thing, parachutes, so he began manufacturing them in 1992.
The company began in a start-up incubator unit in Nottingham; next door was a firm designing kayaking equipment. Soon Armstrong was manufacturing technical kayaking gear, as well as parachutes, after that he started to produce ski and snowboarding jackets, his path then led him to make airline seat covers. “It’s just been a happy little bumble through.”
Tonks mimicked that sentiment, “We sort of fell into bean bags.” The company used to manufacture bean bags for another firm, but after losing faith in the company, Armstrong decided to go it alone and do it all.
“It’s been quite a serendipitous journey through textiles,” admitted Tonks having made everything from parachutes and medical bean bags, to designer gardening aprons and gloves for polar bike races.
The company continues to quietly innovate underneath the radar as well as produce top quality bean bags for the masses. Helping to put British textiles back on the map.
To view their products and innovation please visit their site: https://www.greatbeanbags.com/bean-bags