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Dewhirst to close Cardigan factory
Feature: 3/7/2002

Ladies' wear manufacturer Dewhirst is set to close its west Wales factory with the loss of 325 jobs, it has been confirmed. The Cardigan plant supplies ladies jeans to high street chain Marks & Spencer (director-e News, Monday 22 July).

Dewhirst cut 435 jobs at its Swansea plant in May, moving production to Morocco. A 90-day consultation period about the Cardigan factory closure will begin on 12 August.

In a statement, the company said it "regretted" the decision and blamed "continued consumer pressure on prices". The statement added that this pressure "has led to insufficient profitable business being available to maintain our UK manufacturing at current levels".

Ceredigion MP Simon Thomas said the news was a "huge shock" and he likened the impact of the job losses to the decline of the south Wales steel industry. He said the firm had posted profits of £23 million last year and claimed the move abroad was an attempt to make more money.

Cheaper countries

"I feared this might happen", he said. "The company is in profit but it can make more money by relocating abroad. The workers produced the best clothing and now they are seeing their jobs lost to cheaper countries outside the European Union.

"There are no jobs available in the area in this industry", Simon Thomas added.

And Councillor John Adams-Lewis said: "This is a very dark day for Cardigan. Dewhirst has been a very good employer for about 30 years and a great number of families here depend on the company".

A woman worker, who did not wish to be named, said some workers burst into tears when they were given the news. "We were called to meet the managers and when we saw their faces we realised that something was wrong", she said.

"They told us that there was no easy way to tell us, but after the holidays, we would be given 90 days notice. It is going to be very difficult now with 300-400 of us all going after the same jobs".

Losing money

Dewhirst's trading position worsened this spring when it was revealed that deflated high street prices meant the manufacturer had been steadily losing money for more than 18 months.

Workers at the Swansea plant at Fforestfach, which is due to close in August, were told in May there was opportunity for relocating jobs. Dewhirst is switching production at Swansea of trousers and skirts for M&S to overseas factories.

The company has been cutting its UK workforce since 1998, when 300 jobs were lost at its Ystalyfera factory near Swansea. Then a further 165 jobs were lost last year when it shut its Lampeter plant. The company has another factory at Fishguard, west Wales.

Dewhirst's own fortunes have been closely linked to those of M&S, which has experienced a turbulent period in the past two years.

In 2000, Dewhirst also closed two plants on Teesside and Stoke-in-Trent in England. On those occasions, the company was badly affected by the decision by M&S to transfer large parts of its clothing production outside the UK.
Author: John Gibbon
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