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Tuesday, 22 October, 2002, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Jobs under threat at shoe factory
Overseas competition has been causing problems
Overseas competition has been causing problems
More than 140 jobs could be lost in County Down following the decision by footwear manufacturer Fii to close its factory in Banbridge.

The company, which is based in Northampton, said it was no longer possible to produce footwear competitively at its Northern Ireland plant.

A consultation process with unions at the factory began on Tuesday after the firm made a brief statement to the London Stock Exchange earlier in the day.

Fii said: "The board has concluded that in the current economic climate, it is no longer possible to produce footwear competitively in Banbridge.


The factory has been part of the economic fabric of the area for around 50 years

Liam Hannaway
Banbridge Council
"Fii is unable, therefore, to avoid proposals to consider closing its manufacturing facility, in spite of the efforts of all its employees who have enabled it to survive up to now."

Lotus ladies shoes and Frank Wright men's footwear are made at the Banbridge plant, along with Fii's own brand label shoes.

The group makes its footwear mainly out of synthetic products, primarily for high street outlets, but the firm said the increased demand for leather shoes was taking its toll.

Sales of the Lotus brand had been picking up but Frank Wright performed worse than expected, while Fii's production of its own label had declined because of competition from overseas.

Economic problems

The company used to supply Marks and Spencer but sold that business three years ago.

The director of economic development at Banbridge District Council, Liam Hannaway, said that the news had not come as a complete surprise.

"We've known for two or three years that there were problems and there were fairly regular announcements of redundancies.

"But the factory has been part of the economic fabric of the area for around 50 years, and it's sad to see that it has come to this," said Mr Hannaway.

The plant, formerly known as Down Shoes, was set up in Banbridge in the 1950s, and at one time employed more than 600 workers.

Mr Hannaway said the council would be looking at the site, with a view to bringing new industries into the area.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Banbridge Council's Liam Hanaway:
"The company has been a major part of Banbridge's economic fabric"
See also:

02 Sep 02 | N Ireland
30 Sep 02 | N Ireland
28 Aug 02 | Business
14 Dec 01 | N Ireland
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