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1st July 2008, Hawick, Scotland

End of an Era - Pringle set to close Hawick knitwear factory

Luxury knitwear manufacturer Pringle of Scotland looks set to close its Hawick knitwear manufacturing facility with the loss of 80 jobs.

Management announced on Monday that it expected to close its Hawick factory which employs 110 staff, whilst retaining 30 jobs to staff their head office, finance and customer service departments.

Pringle, which has manufactured knitwear in Hawick for almost 200 years, employed well over 1000 people as recently as the 1980s when the company knitted around 50,000 pieces of fully fashioned knitwear per week. Its woollen sweaters favoured by generations of golfers, as well as celebrities are known throughout the world.

The job losses come after Pringle reported a loss of £9 million last year and the owners, SC Fang & Sons, embarked on a global restructuring programme. Pringle knitwear is also manufactured in Northern Italy were costs are said to be up to 30% lower. After a full review by Fang, production is expected to leave Scotland for Italy.

It is thought that part of reason for ceasing manufacturing in Hawick is the high cost of running the factory. However, since buying the company for £6 million in 2000, SC Fang has invested £45 million mainly on rebranding. Traditional knitwear, which is what Pringle is known for, now accounts for just 15 per cent of Pringle’s sales.

In recent times, Pringle has knitted its natural and luxury fibre sweaters on Shima Seiki SES compact machines in 5, 8 and 12 gauge. The company explored Shima’s labour saving Wholegarment knitting technology a few years ago but did not invest. It is thought that this was mainly due to Fang’s access to cheap labour and huge knitwear manufacturing capacities in Hong Kong and China.

Pringle was an institution in Hawick and at one time nearly every family in the town would have had a family member working in one of the company’s mills. Even today many Hawick individuals still working in Scottish knitwear firms and indeed firms around the world, have some connection or history of employment with Pringle.

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