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Founders rescue firm and 45 jobs at Newquay's Celtic Sheepskin

By Cornish Guardian  |  Posted: February 26, 2014

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SOME 45 jobs have been saved after a Newquay business on the brink of folding was rescued at the last minute – by its original founders.

Nick and Kath Whitworth, who set up Celtic Sheepskin in the Seventies, regained control of the company after it entered into administration earlier this month.

The couple bought back the company for just £60,328 from consumer brands specialist Piper Private Equity, which became the majority shareholder in 2011.

But due to "challenging market conditions" the company struggled, losing around £2 million between May 2011 and Nov 2013.

A spokesman for Piper Private Equity said: "Unfortunately, very challenging market conditions led to insufficient demand for the new product.

"As a result, the founders have decided to buy back the business and fund a revised strategy, returning to the company's heritage."

A total of 52 jobs were originally set to go, but as a result of the deal most of the company's workers will stay on.

Emily Bates, managing director at Celtic Sheepskin and Co Ltd, said: "We're now running a leaner operation. I think it's really important to remember that Nick and Kath chose to save this business, which has saved 45 jobs, and a brand that's treasured locally.

"Unfortunately we've had a couple of years of poor trading linked to the expansion we had planned.

"We looked at expanding our clothing line and put more costs into the business's marketing team, but we didn't see much of a return, so the original founders of the business came back to rescue it."

The company originally started out selling sheepskin boots and leather goods, steadily growing and diversifying to become one of the largest suppliers of sheepskin products in the UK.

In 2009 the Cornish Guardian reported on how the firm was bucking the national trend and had seen an increase in sales of nearly 20 per cent.

Now the company's accounts show that there are around 100 unsecured creditors owed money to the tune of almost £2 million.

However, some of the outstanding money will be repaid to creditors as "it is likely that there will be sufficient net asset realisations to allow a distribution to unsecured creditors".

Miss Bates said: "It's very regrettable that some have been put in a difficult situation, but the situation could have been far worse.

"We're trying to make sure everyone's mitigated from too much loss, as we're passionate about continuing to work with local suppliers.

"As 100 per cent owners again, Nick and Kath remain passionate about the Celtic & Co brand, supporting jobs in Newquay and supplier businesses around the UK, and are pleased to have been able to save such a strong brand."

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