Chester-le-Street firm Steelcraft recovers from recession

Chester-le-Street metalwork firm Steelcraft is poised to swell its ranks as it targets a £2m turnover

A general view inside Steelcraft
A general view inside Steelcraft

A metalwork and fabrication company which almost went out of business in the recession has unveiled ambitious plans to almost double turnover in two years.

Steelcraft, which was launched in 1989, grew steadily until the financial crash in 2008 sparked a huge downturn in the UK construction sector.

It was particularly damaging for the Chester-le-Street firm, which at the time gained most of its work from local authorities. When council budgets were cut in the wake of the Government’s spending review in 2010, Steelcraft lost a large proportion of its business. However, since then the family-run firm has refocused the business by diversifying its product range and winning more work from private sector clients, which include construction giant Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd and housebuilders Miller Homes and Bellway Homes.

Prior to the recession Steelcraft focused primarily on the fabrication and installation of railings and fencing. Now, however, it has branched into other areas such as balconies, balustrade and staircases.

The move has paid off, with the company ready to take on extra staff as it looks to grow turnover from £1.2m to £2m by 2016.

Matthew Rodgers, sales director at Steelcraft, said: “Things have definitely picked up this year. We started to see a pick-up last year, to be honest, but it has really gained momentum in the first half of this year.

“We’ve seen a definite increase in confidence. Enquiries are up and we are starting to turn more of them into new work.

“The recession was really difficult for us, as it was for a lot of companies in our sector. When it hit, 80% of our work came from local authorities.

“We have moved forward now though and put our business on a much better footing.”

He said Steelcraft, which has 25 staff, had a pipeline of orders stretching to the end of this year and beyond. That has given the firm the confidence to predict a 25% jump in turnover this year – ironically the year of its 25th birthday.

The company was launched in 1989 when current chairman John Armstrong took over a struggling security grille manufacturer in South Tyneside. Initially the company supplied and fitted metalwork for security grilles but demand for these products tailed off when secure glazing and alarm systems became more prevalent.

Steelcraft branched into the fabrication and installation of railings and gates and then added mesh fencing to its range. Following the recession, it made a major push into the stainless and secondary steelwork markets. Now the company’s work is spread across the residential and commercial markets, including housing developments, schools, office schemes and care homes.

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