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Norfolk’s global outdoor accessory brand, Sealskinz, brings manufacturing home

PUBLISHED: 08:40 25 July 2018 | UPDATED: 09:11 25 July 2018

Business feature on Sealskinz in King's Lynn. Pictured is Barbara Rutter hand pairing in the sock finishing department. Picture: Ian Burt

Business feature on Sealskinz in King's Lynn. Pictured is Barbara Rutter hand pairing in the sock finishing department. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant 2018

A Norfolk-born business is making big plans for its future after successfully bringing manufacturing back to King’s Lynn in a move which created 30 new jobs.

Business feature on Sealskinz in King's Lynn. The 100% leak proof testing. Picture: Ian BurtBusiness feature on Sealskinz in King's Lynn. The 100% leak proof testing. Picture: Ian Burt

Sealskinz is a waterproof accessories brand which has found favour with professional sports stars and outdoor enthusiasts.

Founded as a spin-off of membranes business Purell in 1996, the company has grown to turn over around £10m a year.

Gareth Hurley, product director at Sealskinz, said the company had returned production to Norfolk after an unsuccessful venture on the continent.

“In 2015 Sealskinz moved their manufacturing abroad to Bulgaria. It actually resulted in less flexibility, and we found it threw up more problems than solutions,” he said.

Business feature on Sealskinz in King's Lynn. Pictured is Robert Greenacre, head of innovation and technical. Picture: Ian BurtBusiness feature on Sealskinz in King's Lynn. Pictured is Robert Greenacre, head of innovation and technical. Picture: Ian Burt

“One of our major shareholders came back into the business, and he was really passionate about bringing the manufacturing of our products back to the UK.

“So just before Christmas, we moved our factory back to Norfolk and asked people who had previously worked for us to come back. Some agreed to fill some of the 30 roles, and we employed new people for the rest.”

The company, based at the Hardwick Industrial Estate, has always had a base in Norfolk but now also has subsidiaries in the US and Germany.

Mr Hurley, who has been with Sealskinz for six months, said: “Our business is really driven by necessity. Our socks, hats, and gloves are made for people who need and want to be outside all day every day.”

Business feature on Sealskinz in King's Lynn. The waterproof membrane is cut. Picture: Ian BurtBusiness feature on Sealskinz in King's Lynn. The waterproof membrane is cut. Picture: Ian Burt

He said the firm had also seen a “major boom” in sales in 2012, when an interest in cycling really took off in the UK off the back of Olympic Games successes. “Whether it was commuters or professional sportsmen, they all wanted something to be waterproof and windproof, but still breathable.”

Sealskinz has plans to stay in the King’s Lynn area, and would only consider moving sites to expand, he added.

Mr Hurley said: “We have major plans for the next few years, which are pretty secret. We have a few new patents we’ve just signed off on, largely which are looking to improve upon the feedback we get from our customers.

“I don’t see the business moving for another five years at least, and even then we would only move to another King’s Lynn site if we needed to expand.”

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