The British textile industry was once the envy of the world. But its decline, which started in the early part of the last century, has accelerated in recent years, fuelled by high wage costs, a strong currency and cheap imports. So it comes as a surprise to find that the second- biggest supplier of workwear in Europe is based in Lancashire.
Twenty years ago, Peter Stock and his wife started a business selling squash racket grips and snooker tables. Two years later Mr Stock and two partners decided to buy Pincroft, a company specialising in dyeing and printing the textiles used to make the protective clothing worn by factory and specialist workers. In 1997 Mr Stock bought Carrington Career & Workwear. Carrington produces fabrics for a wide range of workwear, from chefs' uniforms to camouflage battledress for the Ministry of Defence. After this second acquisition, Rochdale Textile Supplies became the holding company for all the businesses owned by Mr Stock.
Last year Rochdale was placed fourth in the Deloitte & Touche/ Indy 100 listing of Britain's fastest- growing companies. At the time, the company had a turnover of pounds 43m; a year later its sales are touching pounds 50m. Its workforce has also increased, from 207 to 258. This year it is a strong contender for the number one position.
So what is the secret of Rochdale's success? Mr Stock puts it down to "sticking to a specific part of the industry, having a clear vision and not being diverted. We invest a lot in plants and machinery to ensure they remain competitive.
"To survive [in the textile industry] you have to work hard and have the drive and management behind you," he continues. …