Royal carpet-maker Axminster in race for buyer

One of the oldest names in British carpet-making is racing to find a buyer in a frantic bid to avoid collapsing for the second time in seven years.

Sky News has learnt that Axminster Carpets, which has supplied royal palaces for much of its 265-year history, has filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators as it holds talks with a number of prospective investors.

Duff & Phelps, the insolvency practitioner, has been put on standby to handle the process as discussions continue with potential buyers.

Devon-based Axminster is one of the best-known names in its industry, having been founded by Thomas Whitty in 1755.

It counts Buckingham Palace, Clarence House and the US Congress among the most prestigious locations of its workmanship.

The royal warrant-holder’s troubles are understood to have been prompted by weak consumer confidence, delays to corporate orders and a hiatus in the awarding of several new rail franchises – an important source of revenue for it.

If it is forced into administration, it could put almost 90 jobs at risk, and threaten the future of a prominent British brand.

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Axminster Carpets has been producing carpets in Devon since 1755. Pic: AC
Image: Axminster Carpets has been producing carpets in Devon since 1755. Pic: AC

Axminster Carpets has been owned since 2016 by H Dawson Wool, a Bradford-based supplier to the wool carpet manufacturing sector.

The company has been run by managing director Jonathan Young for the last 18 months.

Last September, Mr Young notified employees about impending job losses and offered voluntary redundancy.

In a statement reported by local news outlets at the time, Mr Young said: “Axminster Carpets has been fundamentally repositioned during the last couple of years during which time the business has seen good growth in sales, launch of new products, improved customer service and further development of its brand.

“The current market outlook is however more challenging with the sustained uncertainty relating to Brexit leading to a lack of consumer-spending confidence.”

Mr Young added that the company was “a proud British manufacturer which fully recognises the essential part that its employees play in delivering such exceptional products”.

“The company is therefore working very closely with its employees whilst it implements a process to streamline its operations in order to make sure it is positioned for a sustainable future,” he said last autumn.

Duff & Phelps also handled Axminster’s previous stint in administration in 2013.

It was subsequently bought out of insolvency by Stephen Boyd, a local businessman and quickly returned to break-even.

However, since it last changed hands, it has been loss-making, reporting negative earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £0.55m in the year to 28 February 2018.

Axminster Carpets’ other corporate clients have included JD Wetherspoon, the pub operator known for its vast and distinctively patterned carpets.

Its original products were supplied to Chatsworth House, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, and Brighton Pavilion.

After a fire destroyed its factory, the company stopped producing carpets for years before resuming at a new site in 1937.

Axminster Carpets could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

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