Hawick cashmere mill halts production to protect staff from risk of coronavirus

Johnstons of Elgin in Hawick.Johnstons of Elgin in Hawick.
Johnstons of Elgin in Hawick. | Bill McBurnie Photography, Queens Cottage, Queen Street, Jedburgh. TD8 6EP mobile: 07740720063 e: [email protected]
Cashmere clothing manufacturer Johnstons of Elgin has suspended operations at its Hawick mill to avoid exposing its staff to risk of coronavirus infection.

That move was prompted by advice issued by the Scottish Government yesterday, March 23, that businesses unable to enforce social distancing should shut and was made ahead of the national lockdown announced by UK Government prime minister Boris Johnson last night.

The Mansfield Road mill and the company’s other factory, at Elgin in Moray, closed last night and will stay shut until Sunday, April 5, at the very earliest.

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About 1,000 staff at the two sites will be affected by that shutdown.

The closure of the two-century-old company’s two mills follows last Friday’s announcement that its Hawick shop and cafe – along with other stores in Edinburgh, London, St Andrews and Elgin – will be shut until further notice.

It is uncertain when Johnstons of Elgin’s five stores, employing 110 staff between them, will reopen.

Company chief executive Simon Cotton said: “This is an anxious time for everyone. However, throughout this period, we have continuously followed the advice from the government and after Monday’s announcement by Nicola Sturgeon, we wanted to waste no time in acting to protect employee safety, our community and the National Health Service.

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“We will be discussing with employees in the following days arrangements during the closure and expect to have everyone back at work when the current situation is resolved.

“We will keep our staff and our community aware of our plans.

“We also want to thank all of our customers for being so loyal in supporting us in this difficult time. We very much look forward to seeing them again as soon as possible.”

The firm’s online store, johnstonsofelgin.com, will remain open as usual.

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Mr Cotton added: “Our family-owned business has overcome many difficulties in its 222-year history. We will do so again by remaining focused on what is most important to us – our employees, customers and communities.

“Although we are seeing significant impact on spring and summer, our future order book is still strong and, because we make everything from fibre to finished products, we are not being affected by disruption to supply chains.”

Most of the production being undertaken by the company, founded in 1797, until this week’s shutdown was for the autumn and winter season and it expects trade to make a strong recovery later in the year after taking a hit over the coming months.