Some of us were down in Devon on holiday recently, staying in the pretty market town of Axminster, home of the long-established and world famous Axminster Carpets. Yorkshire firm H. Dawson, leading players in the world wool supply trade for many decades, recently took a controlling share in Axminster Carpets. So after checking out their very first, ground breaking loom at the local museum, we dropped in at their factory for a chat with Hilary Clements, their marketing manager.
I asked Hilary how the arrangement with H. Dawson had come about.
“Dawson has a longstanding relationship as a wool supplier to Axminster. We have worked with them over a number of years to ensure that wool, the core ingredient of our carpets, continues to be the best possible to deliver our world-class carpets. Both companies are committed to wool and British manufacturing.”
Axminster and Dawson have a lot in common. Both are long established companies with strong brands, both innovate and improve technically to hold existing market niches and find new ones, and both aim uncompromisingly at the quality end of the market.
North-south relationships like this are not unusual in the textiles sector. Although Yorkshire and the North are the heartlands of British textiles, there are some textile companies dotted around the rest of the UK too, although few with the formidable reputation of Axminster Carpets. As a royal warrant holder this reputation starts right at the top.
It will be interesting over the next few years to see if any of the wool treatment technology being pioneered in Yorkshire, such as laser/plasma treatments and nanotechnology, migrates south along with the wool and investment. For now Axminster Carpets is happy to simply exploit the natural properties that high quality wool displays when it is expertly blended and woven. Hilary was enthusiastic:
“Our luxurious wool carpets and rugs are extremely hard wearing, cast off the dirt and have great acoustic and thermal properties. It’s not just royal palaces that recognise the advantages of investing in them, our carpets can be found in thousands of homes throughout the world.”
Another factor favouring wool floor coverings is environmental pressure. From 2025 a ban on putting carpets into landfill will come into force. Not only are good quality wool rugs long lived, but they can be recycled easily and ultimately naturally biodegraded to create soil, avoiding the expense and pollution of incineration.
Axminister Carpets is ahead of the legislation and has already implemented closed loop recycling, including turning waste carpets into high quality underlay. Hilary was proud of this initiative, pointing out:
“When we manufacture we’re not leaving behind a footprint that somebody else has to manage.”
Thank you Hilary for showing us round the factory complex. It was great to see the tradition of weaving fine carpets in Axminster still going strong. We were particularly pleased to see a reproduction of the rug that started the tradition in 1755, having just seen the original in the museum.