A COUNTY Durham manufacturer has plans to expand into the US with its British designed and built fireplaces.
Managers from CVO Fire, which already has showrooms in Germany, Holland, Norway and Italy, have returned from a visit to the US and are working with a distributor to develop new designs to launch in America next year.
Financial director Christine Mcloughlin said: “Obviously, there’s a recession worldwide but there are still pockets of people in Europe and America who do have money.
“We do sell into America already, which tends to be people who have found us themselves.”
The Newton Aycliffe company invested more than £150,000 to create seven high-efficiency fires, four of which have been launched and the remaining three will hit the market in the autumn.
The fires are proving popular with housebuilders and owners of new- build properties because although they need a house with chimney, they are glass-fronted, room-sealed and don’t need external ventilation.
Although around 60% of fires sold in the UK are this type, CVO had never made them before, but the investment in the new designs is paying off as housebuilders ramp up production again.
Mcloughlin said: “CVO is known for its open-fronted fires but the market is looking for high efficiency and green [energy]. We have tried to go into the market with more glamorous fires.”
CVO also supplies to a number of top hotel chains including Hilton, Marriott, Greene King, InterContinental, Mercure Hotels and the Connaught Hotel.
Mcloughlin and CVO managing director Andrew Munro bought the brand out of administration in 2007 and since then turnover has increased by 80% to an undisclosed sum. Manufacturing at its Newton Aycliffe headquarters has doubled and staff numbers have jumped from five to 17.
CVO’s expansion is bucking the trend in the sector, which was hard hit by the recession and saw a number of high profile companies go out of business.
Munro said: “CVO Fire has battled through some tough times during which manufacturing as seen a slump and our industry has really suffered the effects of the recessionary climate.
“But we’ve not only managed to survive – we’ve also grown. We attribute this not only to the fact that our designs and high-quality products are popular with a variety of customers here and abroad, but also down to our efficient workforce.”
The business sells directly to the public but a key part of its market is working with architects and interior designers.
Mcloughlin said: “B2B (business to business) has been higher over the last year, as the B2B market has been coming back and it’s definitely getting stronger. Because it is a niche market, we tend to work with those building 20 to 30 houses and designer flats where they want something different.
“We have to work hard at it but it’s ticking along just nicely.”