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Last Updated:  Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 15:20 GMT 16:20 UK
Job cuts loom at Silentnight
Parker Knoll furniture
Parker Knoll wants to revamp its image
Up to 800 workers could lose their jobs after furniture group Silentnight announced plans to close two factories.

The company said its plants at Andover, Hampshire, and Bridgend, south Wales, would close in July as part of an overhaul of its loss-making Parker Knoll and Ducal businesses.

It blamed the move on cheap foreign imports, which it said had "decimated" the cabinet-making business.

Underinvestment and lack of new products had also played a part, chief executive Nino Allenza admitted.

Job hopes

Worst hit is Andover, where 550 workers are employed making Ducal furniture.

Reclining chairs still have a slightly outdated, cheesy image
Furniture buyer

The figure of 800 also includes 200 job losses at Chipping Norton, which have already been announced.

Mr Allenza, who took the helm in October, said: "We are doing everything we can to try to find jobs for our workers if there is no alternative employment within the group.

"We are providing out-placement counselling for everyone affected.

"The factories are in areas of full employment so we are very hopeful."

Struggling

Silentnight, which is based in Barnoldswick, Lancashire, expanded its furniture division by buying Ducal and Cornwell Parker two-and-a-half years ago.

But it has struggled to integrate its acquisitions into the rest of the group.

In its most recent set of results, the furniture division saw turnover fall 21% to 51.7m and operating losses widen from 1m to 4.9m in the six months to 3 August.

The group, which employs 5,000 people in the UK, said trading conditions continued to be "challenging".

Revamp plans

Mr Allenza said Silentnight was planning to revamp the Parker Knoll and Ducal brands.

"The new range will appeal to the over 40s age group. At the moment, the classic range appeals to the over 60s.

"We want to bring it to a slightly younger audience."

While it will continue to make its traditional ranges in-house, the new lines are to be made by sub-contractors both in the UK and overseas.

'Powerful brand'

Commenting on the plans, a furniture buyer for a major store group said: "Parker Knoll have been moving into more modern designs in recent years and ditching the floral patterns.

"But the reclining chairs still have a slightly outdated, cheesy image.

"The company made one television ad in the late 1960s, which for some reason has stuck in people's minds."

The buyer, who did not want to be named, said Parker Knoll was still a "powerful brand", which could be successfully relaunched, with the right marketing spend.

Silentnight shares fell 6p to 96.5p.




SEE ALSO:
Furniture company cuts 200 jobs
07 Mar 03  |  England


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