South Korean giant buys Lochcarron

Alistair Buchan, lochcarron
Alistair Buchan, lochcarron

AROUND 130 Borders jobs have been safeguarded with the acquisition of Selkirk-based weaving manufacturer and tartan specialist Lochcarron by a South Korean multi-national retailer.

And hopes are high the deal will lead to an expansion of operations at Dunsdale Road as the erstwhile family-owned firm cashes in on burgeoning luxury markets in China.

The disposal of the family-owned Lochcarron John Buchan Ltd to E-Land, which has an annual worldwide turnover of £7.5billion and thousands of outlets across the Far East, was confirmed at the weekend.

Talks regarding the acquisition, concluded on June 30, have taken place over recent months as Lochcarron has sought to realise a long-term growth plan aimed at promoting its products in Korea and China.

“This will secure the company’s continued presence as a manufacturing business in the Borders and provide the support and expertise to further develop new and existing products,” said a Lochcarron statement.

Retiring chairman Alistair Buchan, 72, whose father John Morris Buchan founded the company with a small manufacturing unit in Galashiels in 1947, added: “I believe E-Land’s established presence in the global market place will enable Lochcarron to continue to develop and prosper, supported by such a major force in the world of prestigious textiles.”

E-Land, which is based in Seoul and was established in 1980, can certainly lay claim to that description having 5,000 franchised high street stores and around 60 in-house fashion discount outlets. Its portfolio includes luxury wear for children and women, while it has diversified more recently into food retail, hotels and construction.

One of its subsidiary companies Gloverall, famous for its original Duffle coat, acquired the former Peter Scott knitwear business in Hawick after the latter went into adminstration last year.

The Lochcarron announcement raises obvious question marks over the retention of head office functions in both Borders towns.

However, an industry insider told us: “The E-land acquisition should be an ‘Open Sesame’ for Lochcarron into the lucrative Far East markets, particularly China, which is a massive consumer of luxury goods.

“The appeal of Lochcarron is its ability to do short-run bespoke orders for famous name designers, while retaining the provenance of high quality Scottish manufacture which is so appealing to customers.

“E-Land is not a philanthropic organisation so they appear to have grasped a solid business opportunity while the lenders who could have realised Lochcarron’s ambitions have been dragging their feet. This is, without doubt, a good news story.”

Richard Sweetnam, Scottish Borders Council’s economic development officer, said his department had not been involved in the acquisition.

“However, anything which keeps niche manufacturing going in the Borders textile sector, which still punches well above its weight, is good news,” he told us.

Apart from its Selkirk workforce, Lochcarron employs 15 in kilt-making, retail and web operations in Canada, while a further four are employed in wholesale and distribution in New Hampshire, USA.

Lochcarron weaves tartan for the traditional Scottish sector and fashion fabrics for high-end clothing designers and retailers. It is known for its use of colour and it has its own dye-house.

The company moved to Selkirk from its Galashiels home in 2006 and offers mill tours to the general public. The premises includes a visitor centre and refreshment area.