£1m factory starts new era for furniture firm

Kestral Furniture. Directors, Paul Edwards and Angela Howe with Dieter Poole, site foreman.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY Kestral Furniture. Directors, Paul Edwards and Angela Howe with Dieter Poole, site foreman. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
8:00 AM

A long-established Norfolk furniture company is preparing to move into a new £1m factory and showroom.

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The 30 staff at Kestrel Furniture (Norwich Ltd) will make the summer switch from Horsham St Faith to Great Plumstead at a time when orders are noticeably picking up after the recession.

Director Angela Howe said: “We are bursting out of where we are now. As we have grown we have found that we simply don’t have enough space.”

The firm bought the three-acre former Dairyland Ices site on Reeves Corner, Great Plumstead, four years ago and the factory, showroom and offices currently under construction have been designed to bring optimum space.

Ms Howe, who along with fellow director Paul Edwards, has been at the firm for more than 20 years, said: “We lease our present factory and wanted to own our own premises. It will be a much nicer landscaped site compared to the trading estate where we are now.”

Since opening in Horsham St Faith in the late 1980s, Kestrel has earned an enviable reputation for building bespoke kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms and home office furniture.

Ms Howe said: “We have many long-serving staff and some go right back to the early days, including craftsmen David Graver and Michael Smith and Kevin Squirrel, who started out as a craftsman and is now part of the management team.”

Their main customer base was in East Anglia but establishing a second showroom in Southwold 18 months ago had opened a new London market from second homers in the Suffolk resort.

She said: “Before the recession our turnover reached £3m; it dropped during the downturn but we managed to get through it and kept all our staff. We never lost confidence in Kestrel and are very proud of our business and what it produces.”

Ms Howe said they were now encouraged by signs of economic recovery and, with their turnover back over £2m and growing, were currently interviewing for a new apprentice.

“Since Christmas especially, we have had a lot of orders coming in - reasonable-sized orders - and lots of customers in the showroom; it is noticeably busier,” she said.

“This month I would say business is up more than 10pc on the same time last year.”

Most of their customers were families but they also had architects coming in with clients and a Norfolk builder “who says our kitchens help to sell his houses”.

She said if business continued on the same positive course they would certainly be looking to increase their workforce and had been discussing apprenticeships with city MP Chloe Smith who spearheads the Norwich For Jobs campaign seeking to cut youth unemployment.

Ms Smith said: “It is great to see a local firm like Kestrel Furniture doing well. As head of the Norwich for Jobs project, we are excited to see firms growing in the area. Opening a new factory gives Norwich a boost and shows what skills we have locally.”

She said she would urge any growing Norwich firm to consider giving a hand to the area’s young people by signing up to Norwich For Jobs.

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