Carlisle MP John Stevenson today opened an extension to Chapman Bags’ Carlisle factory and described the firm as a ‘little gem’,
The firm benefitted from a major investment in July this year which has allowed it to expand and improve its production processes to meet the rising demand for its luxury bags.
It already exports around 20 per cent of its bags abroad with high demand in Germany, USA and Japan and plans to double its overseas sales while also increasing its online retail operation.
John Stevenson was given a tour of the Harraby factory to see how the investment has been used to create more space including room for in-house training so machinists can learn new skills.
Cutting a ribbon, to open the extension Mr Stevenson said: “I have been to Chapman Bags a few times and always thought of it as a little gem within Carlisle. I think it is fair to say it should be better known within your own city let alone the country and internationally..
“I think the success of any business is down to good staff who are motivated and skilled, good management, investment in the business and the product, and you’ve got all these things and a fantastic product. So I just wish you all the very best for the future, I hope you are a tremendous success.”
The MP was joined on the tour by Chapman Bags’ local suppliers who got an insight into how the company has already been able to increase the number of bags it makes by around 30 per cent.
CEO Cedric Stonex said the company had been happy to make this investment this year despite Brexit. “Like a lot of firms, we have had to increase our stock as we import leather from Italy and our customers have done likewise so we have seen a rise in orders from Europe ahead of the Brexit deadline which will probably drop off again,” he said.
“For 33 years the success of Chapman Bags has been built on the skills of our Carlisle workers and this year’s investment has allowed us to develop our workforce, providing them with more space, better training and promoting some of our loyal staff into new positions.”
“The investment was made at a time of great political uncertainty and like a lot of businesses we are hoping that any disruption to our ability to import materials and sell our bags abroad is kept to a minimum,” he added.
Chapman Bags expects to add to its 25 staff and sewing floor supervisor Pat Lockerby – who has worked at the firm for 21 years – hope more people in Carlisle will consider applying. “It is hard to find machinists, but we train people up if they are enthusiastic. It is a great place to work and we have a good team here – Cedric doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty and mucking in.”
Rhys Lord, 23, is the company’s newest recruit having joined just 10 days ago and works on the shop floor batching the components for each bag to be sewn together.
“I worked in retail before, but much prefer it here. We’re always busy and its good to be involved with making something with your hands where people really appreciate the quality.”