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Case Study: Abbey England - Business growth and coronavirus support

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Abbey England is a family-run manufacturer, offering premium materials and tools such as English leathers, saddlery and leathercraft tools, hardware, webbing and outdoor textiles to a range of customers in the UK and overseas.

Headquartered in Knutsford, Abbey England was impacted by both the COVID pandemic and Brexit, particularly when trying to maintain access to their trade customers, including those in Europe, accounting for 30% of total income.

The business required support from the Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub to build back and maintain its growth. This included:

  • EU Exit guidance
  • Coronavirus guidance
  • Peer Networks
  • Financial support to aid recovery

Abbey England was assigned an EU Exit specialist adviser, who provided fully funded advice, helping them to understand and implement the changes to paperwork and packaging requirements when exporting to the EU.

Funded training on the paperwork required for exporting packages to Europe was also provided and Abbey England also accessed the Internationalisation Fund,   received a grant of £4,500 to enable them to internationalize its website which opened up access to more international clients and the ability to showcase the business abroad.

Richard Pickering, Director of Warehouse and Purchasing, also attended the Growth Hub’s Peer Networks programme, between September 2021 and February 2022.

This programme focused on bringing local business leaders together, sharing the challenges faced in running their businesses and helping the business leaders develop strategies for growth.

Richard said: “To share knowledge and similar experiences with other businesses, particularly around the EU Exit, really helped us become more aware of what our problems were and made us more open in talking about them and trying to solve them.

“It was also incredibly useful when we were joined by Kirsty Craig Associates for a session, who provided us all with expert insight into retaining employees and updates on the recruitment landscape

Abbey England received further support from the Growth Hub, accessing a Recovery and Growth Grant from Cheshire East Council, worth £25,000, which was based on previous capital expenditure they had undertaken in 2021.

This funding meant that they could implement the next step of an e-commerce platform which has also enabled them to grow the team by bringing on board a marketing analyst to support the platform and growth ambitions, both of which have increased online sales.

Richard Brown, CEO of Abbey England, said: Without the Growth Hub, we wouldn’t have known about the Recovery and Growth Grant and would not have been able to implement this further website development as quickly.

This has enabled us to offer customers a new route for direct orders and build on incorporating new areas of the business. After a difficult two years, to be able to receive this grant was empowering and helped to rebuild morale. Put simply without the Growth Hub, we wouldn’t have accessed this £25,000 grant. Ultimately, this grant has meant that we had the cash available to do things which we wanted to do, much sooner than we otherwise would have been able to.”

Andy Devaney, Business Innovation Director at Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub, part of the Local Enterprise Partnership commented: “We understand how hard businesses have been impacted factors such as Brexit and COVID, and have been trying to help businesses overcome the associated challenges.

“The team have done a fantastic job in helping Abbey England with their growth plans and have helped them link together support from ourselves, Cheshire East Council and central Government funding. We are continuing to work with them to facilitate growth and innovation in their business.”

Find out more about Abbey England here

Find out more about the Growth Hub here