Tesco team up with County Durham's AMA Group

A new County Durham clothing firm has secured its first contract - and it's a big one

The directors of the AMA Group outside the Peterlee factory

A newly-established clothing manufacturer has signed its first major contract with a leading retailer – a deal which will help create more jobs.

Production officially got underway at the AMA Group in Peterlee, County Durham, two months ago, activity which sparked a rejuvenation of the North East’s clothing industry 15 years after it was decimated.

Claremont Garments was among the firms forced to close North East factories as businesses chose to outsource to cheaper manufacturers overseas – a move which led to the loss of more than 4,000 jobs across the region.

However, former Claremont directors Julie and David Price and Paul Watts along with Steven Price and Steven Lawson, launched AMA Group Ltd at the start of the year, having seized upon signs of revival of the industry .

The directors initially took on 20 workers but headcount has already swelled to 25, and initial estimates that the workforce would swell to 150 by the end of 2015 will increase significantly, in part due to the firm’s first major contract win, with supermarket giant Tesco.

Joint managing directors Julie Price and Paul Watts have signed a deal with Tesco to produce clothing for the retailer’s F&F range, which will hit stores nationwide in early September.

The contract is part of an ongoing partnership which The AMA Group has entered into with F&F who have the option of filling capacity at the company’s Peterlee facility.

Julie Price said: “We are delighted that after months of planning and preparation, we are able to announce our first major national deal. Tesco expressed an interest in working with us at a very early stage so the last few months have been about us agreeing the specifics of the deal and undergoing audits to prove our company could meet their exacting standards.

“We’ve now signed on the dotted line and production for this initial contract will be underway shortly. To begin with we’ll be manufacturing soft separates jerseywear for the F&F collection, signalling the start of what will be an ongoing collaboration between The AMA Group and Tesco.”

Jason Tarry, chief executive office of F&F, said: “We’re really pleased to be working with The AMA Group and helping to bring back jobs to an area with such a strong textile manufacturing heritage. It’s good for the local community and The AMA Group’s expertise means our customers will be able to buy good quality British-made clothing at great prices from F&F.”

The AMA Group plans to recruit in excess of 150 people between now and the end of 2015 to meet the rise in demand for the garments they manufacture. So far 25 experienced machinists have been employed with the remaining being recruited on a monthly basis.

One of the people recruited by The AMA Group is Annmarie Dawson, who worked in the industry for almost 30 years.

She said: “I absolutely loved working in the clothing manufacturing industry so when I saw Julie and Paul were creating this facility, I jumped at the chance to once again work with them.

“I’ve been working for the company for a few months now and I have to say I’m really enjoying it. There’s such a buzz about the place as we know we’re part of a something special.”

“Tesco’s F&F range is so well known so to have secured it as our first client is fantastic. Everyone owns something from the range so to see people wearing clothes we’ve made will give us all such a good feeling.”

Paul Watts added: “The revival of clothing manufacturing in the North East has begun. At its peak, the industry employed thousands of people in the region and we firmly believe the plans we’ve put in place could recreate that success.

“We’ve talked about recruiting in excess of 150 people; that’s us being conservative. In reality we expect that figure to rise significantly so we can meet the demand that is already there. And our plans aren’t just focused on Peterlee. We believe this model could be recreated elsewhere in the region, once again establishing the North East as the bedrock of the clothing manufacturing industry.”

Since announcing their plans back in February, The AMA Group’s directors have been meeting with organisations across the North East to tap into the support available to them to help them grow their business.

One of the programmes they have accessed support through is the North East Rural Growth Network, which is managed by East Durham Business Service.

Rural Enterprise Development Officer Sarah Marshall said: “The AMA Group’s plans are incredibly ambitious and are really helping put this area on the map for all the right reasons, so I am delighted that the North East Rural Growth Network programme has been able to support them. They’re the perfect example of a company that, whilst on the face of it wouldn’t consider themselves rural, have been able to tap into the help available because they fall within the boundaries of the programme.

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