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{besps}ss/hk1{/besps}Hawick - UK textile firm Ruia Group has purchased a 50% stake in Hawick Knitwear in a deal that should spur growth in both the Borders-based firm?s private label and own-brand businesses.

The Bolton-based Group operates a number of brands across the UK including the Sock Shop, supplying and distributing home textiles and hosiery to retailers and the hospitality industry.

Most interestingly, it also operates golf clothing brands such as Glenmuir illustrating an obvious fit with a company such as Hawick Knitwear which, after supplying brands such as Lyle & Scott for many years, has a strong pedigree in that sector.

The Borders firm's managing director Benny Hartop, who himself was part of a management buyout in 2010, told BBC News that there would be no managerial changes as a result of the deal and it was "business as usual".

The company produces around 400,000 garments per year and, with a strong reputation for its highly regarded 15G lambswool sweaters, is probably the biggest fully fashioned knitter left in the UK in terms of capacity, employing between 230 and 240 people depending on the time year.

Traditionally, Hawick Knitwear has always been mainly a contract knitter with customers such as Lyle & Scott supplemented by premium private labels such as Alfred Dunhill and upmarket US department stores such as Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman.

Recently, the company has also been growing its own brands, the Clan Douglas label and the a premium ladies wear Clan Douglas Cashmere Studio label, raising its profile with attendance at high-end European trade shows such as the Pitti Uomo exhibition in Florence. This ability to produce such an expansive range of knitwear is heightened by its well-targeted investment in technology over the years which includes two Shima Seiki?s SIG series machines with the SIG 123 CS system providing technicians with 30 feeders at their fingertips, more than double the previous amount available with one of the major advantages being that there is no need to change the feeders when intarsia is required.

The plant also includes around 28 other Shima machines in 5, 8 and 12 gauge, which range from twin-head shaping SET092FF models to SES122FF and SES124 models. The company also has fully fashioned frames in 9, 15 and 21 gauges, some of which have been upgraded with electronic controls. This is complemented by a bank of Protti rib bar loading machines for the knitting and automatic bar loading of ?skirts and cuffs? (body ribs and sleeve ribs), which are then loaded into the frames to be attached to the bodies. Other investments that have helped cut costs and improve efficiency include some of the latest automated garment pressing technology that also stacks the finished product.

With a raft of fresh investment from the Ruia deal, Hawick Knitwear will be confident that its new, experienced textile industry partner will assist its growth plans and sales potential across both its own brand and private label businesses.

In just the last couple of weeks, the Glenmuir brand reaffirmed its prestigious status as ?Preferred Supplier? of knitwear and to the European Ryder Cup Team to 2014, a contract it has held since 1987.

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