Back from the brink, Kelso firm carves a bright future

Tom Butler Furniture makers in Kelso.
Tom Butler Furniture makers in Kelso.
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A business which nearly went to the wall during the recession is on target to more than double its turnover, having expanded and taken on staff to meet growing demand.

Since moving to Kelso from Cornhill in January, Tom Buttler Furniture has increased its workforce from three to five and quadrupled its work space to 4,000 sq.ft.

The firm, specialising in the design and manufacture of bespoke free-standing furniture, is now projected to double its turnover by April next year.

But founder and owner Tom Buttler admitted things were different back in 2008.

“When the recession hit, the phone literally stopped ringing and I was only able to keep going because my wife had a job. If I’d had staff to pay at that point, the business would have folded,” said Tom.

“Fortunately as the economy stabilised and confidence returned, our order book, fuelled by word of mouth, has grown and the move to Kelso has really helped us.

“Although most of our orders come from the local area, we now have clients as far afield as Oban and Newcastle.”

Buoyed by this turnaround, Tom went to Business Gateway Scottish Borders for advice on how to start an apprenticeship scheme. As a result, he has taken on three apprentices and expects to start another early next year.

With the help of £4,000 grant secured through Business Gateway, Tom has also recently installed a biomass heating system which means his company will now produce less than a tonne of waste each year.

“Our wood shavings are already used on a local farm and the council takes our plastic and cardboard away to be recycled,” explained Tom.

“Previously, we paid around £2,000 to have our chipboard and MDF offcuts taken to landfill but the biomass unit is specially designed to burn these products and heat our unit.

“The resultant savings, along with the grant, means we will have paid for the system within two years.”

Business Gateway adviser Alan King praised Tom and his team.

“It’s their attention to detail and high level of workmanship that has led to their growing popularity and the valuable creation of employment opportunities for local youth,” said Alan.

“Tom is also looking to establish an e-commerce site that will sell pre-made furniture and hopes to secure his first commercial contract next year. We will continue to work with Tom as and when he needs assistance to help him ensure his business reaches its full potential.”