A History of DHJ Weisters ltd
Niche marketing, strategic acquisitions and a rolling machine investment program have been the key pillars of a strategy that has seen DHJ Weisters Ltd successfully navigate the recent lean times to a profitable and secure present.
“We have always targeted niche markets , and at the same time, we have invested heavily in new technology to allow us to compete,” says current MD Duncan Weisters. In addition, we have a skilled and highly motivated workforce.
The company’s weaving mill in Darwen, Lancs dates back to the 1930s and is wholly owned by the Weisters family. Duncan is the current MD, having taken over from his father James in 2005.
J.H Godfrey Weisters arrived in UK from Krefeld, Germany before the First World War and set up a business as a fabric importer. Trade restrictions caused by the gold standard crisis made his position untenable and a decision was taken to establish a manufacturing unit in a joint venture with a Swiss supplier of machinery, a number of silk weavers were sent to Darwen, resulting in the formation of Lancashire Silk Mills. With Godfrey’s son Dennis as MD, the business continued successfully until 1960 as a partnership, when his brother, who ran the London sales office, decided to retire. This lead to the formation of DHJ Weisters with 12 looms in a small part of the old LSM premises, weaving club ties.
Since 1960, there has been a steady program of modernization and bringing “in house” processes previously done “out of house”. DHJ Weisters purchased the first computerized card cutting machine in the UK, which dramatically reduced the leadtimes for new designs.
Throughout the last 25 years, the company has made a sustained number of acquisitions. In the early 1980s, DHJ Weisters bought the specialist school tie weaver – Smith Hartley of Skipton. The late 80s brought a period of boom as corporate neckwear proved particularly popular. The company diversified into dye-printed neckwear, (both ties and scarves), opening a printing mill, initially, this prospered, but the recession of 1989/90 took its toll on both weaving and printing departments, leading to the takeover in 1991 of the company’s main competitor in both areas – Brocklehurst Fabrics. The closure of Josiah Smales of Macclesfield lead to the formation of the company’s CMT division, which now makes in excess of 8,000 units per week – ties, bows, cummerbunds, waistcoats.
The purchase of James Arnold in 1993 gave Weisters access to a combined total of over 80,000 designs.
Driver Bros, the UK’s leading weaver of bridal fabrics, also closed down in 1993 and Weisters engaged its salesmen and created a collection that was enlarged by the design library of Marie Bridal Fabrics in 1996.
In 1996, the company acquired the operations of Tycrest overprinting and then 3 years later Hills’ Scarves. When Hartley Garden Vale closed, the company engaged Andrew Hartley to further their technical expertise.
Over the last 10 years, DHJ Weisters Ltd have bought the Trade business of Matisse Design Ltd and in 2007, we acquired the Goodwill, Stock and some machinery of Ezra T Lee in Keighley. Most importantly though was the arrival of key staff from both Matisse and Ezra T Lee, who have subsequently helped the company deal with the retirement of some long serving and highly skilled members of staff.
The profits generated by these new ventures has enabled the business to undertake a capital expenditure programme of some £250,000 per year on a turnover of £5million. The diversity of products has helped to shelter the business from recessions, seasonality and foreign competition. The company’s looms are supplied by Italy’s Promotech with jacquards from Bonas. We have managed to totally standardize our machines, resulting in smoother changeovers, shorter down times between pieces and a deeper understanding of technicians as they now only have to specialize in 1 machine.
The company currently employs 70 people and looks forward to a healthy and prosperous future, in partnership with its many customers and suppliers.