A small Northumberland sock manufacturer is growing an unlikely export market in Japan, as demand for its products swells in the country, spurred on by the fashion media.
Capricorn Mohair Socks, based in Rothbury, exported 2,500 pairs of its mohair socks to Japan last year, and this month fulfilled an order for a further 6,000 pairs, worth just over £30,000.
Company owner Jon Monks said: “We were really pleased with our export numbers last year and also with the feedback we have received from our friends in Japan. Our socks have been featured in a number of fashion magazines over there.
“This year, we have four large retailers stocking our socks in Japan and with our orders growing by such an amount it has been a real credit to our staff that turned round such a large order.
“Just the shear bulk of packaged socks alone, 20 boxes which were 3ft x 3ft x 3ft and each weighing 35 kg brought its own problems with storage, as we worked through the order.”
Capricorn Mohair Socks source local mohair from angora goats. The fleece is then spun into yarn, knitted and dyed.
Originally based at Kirkharle Courtyard, the tiny rural firm has enjoyed steady growth recently, last year reporting sales of around ï¿½150,000.
The Japanese order is being exported by land and sea using a container and will be arriving just in time for the Japanese winter.
Capricorn Mohair Socks hold enough stock to keep its 65 UK retailers going throughout the year, but in this case, the quantity was so large, the socks had to be made especially for the order.
All Capricorn Mohair socks are knitted on traditional four-needle machines and dyed using traditional techniques.
The production process is slow and it took nearly five months from the order being received for all the socks to be produced.
Monks added: “As our socks have really taken off in the fashion market in Japan, we did some very different vibrant colours for them this year including pink, lilac and a bright yellow which complemented our existing colours.
“One of the knock on effects is that it has enabled us to try these colours on our UK customers and over the last few weeks they have been very well received.”
The UK Government has highlighted overseas exports as one of the key ways in which the country can get back on the road to recovery, showing how even smaller businesses can play a role.
Capricorn Mohair Socks is based at Rothbury’s old Tourist Information Centre, alongside its sister business, Shepherds Walks.
It is open seven days a week.