Up to 100 jobs at risk as wallcoverings group announces closure of Blackburn site

Blackburn wallcoverings business, Graham & Brown, has warned of up to 100 redundancies as part of a shift to a ‘design-led, digital-focused, low-carbon future’.

It aims to invest in digital technology at its new state-of-the-art low-carbon production site in Padiham, Lancashire.

The Padiham site opened 20 years ago as a distribution centre but underwent a refurb and extension in 2021 to create a digital production facility.

In plans announced to staff today (August 16) it outlined proposals to move its traditional wallcovering production to manufacturing partners in Europe.

If confirmed, this would lead to the closure of its traditional manufacturing site at India Mill, Blackburn, which could result in around 100 redundancies.

The business currently employs around 400 people, including approximately 325 in the UK. It said it has started a consultation process with colleagues potentially affected with the aim of exploring viable alternatives, or reducing job losses.

Graham & Brown, which was founded in 1946 and remains family owned, said the proposals were a response to “ongoing structural change in the global wallcoverings market”, which has seen demand for traditionally-manufactured wallpaper in the physical retail channel contract, and demand for more environmentally-friendly, design-led and digitally-printed product in the online retail channel increase.

This, it said, had led to “rising production inefficiencies” at its traditional manufacturing site.

Graham & Brown is one of the world’s leading home interiors groups.

Its products, which are sold in more than 75 countries, span wallpaper, paints, soft furnishings and home accessories.

Its portfolio includes owned brands, such as Graham & Brown, Superfresco and Contour, as well as licensed brands, with products sold direct to customer through its own ecommerce platform and via retail partners in-store and online.

The business, which became carbon-neutral last year, has pledged to become net zero by 2030.

Its new digital printing site – which it believes is the most advanced, sustainable wallcoverings production facility in Europe – uses 100% renewable energy, solvent-free inks and sustainably-sourced paper.

It said digital printing also made it easier to access its archive of 35,000 designs and that it planned to expand the ranges and volumes produced at the new facility significantly in line with rapidly increasing customer demand.

CEO, Andrew Graham, said: “The global wallcoverings market has been undergoing structural change for many years due to the growth of online retail and the category’s contraction in physical retail, trends which have accelerated post-COVID. Consumers and retailers have also become even more environmentally conscious and are actively seeking more sustainable home interiors products.

“Due to reducing demand for traditionally-manufactured product and rising production inefficiencies as a direct result, our manufacturing operation at India Mill in Blackburn is no longer fit for purpose. Sadly this means we need to explore the difficult decision to close the operation.”

He added: “Our team have investigated a number of specialist manufacturers – several of whom we have worked with for many years already – and we are confident they have the right capacity and capability to meet our needs. This would give us the flexibility and cost-efficiencies we need to continue serving this important part of the market even more strongly over the years ahead through our ongoing commitment to exceptional design development, customer service and category management.

“What remains paramount is that we continue to support colleagues during what will be a personally unsettling period.”

He said: “As a business that’s been innovating the market for over 75 years, we need to look ahead and respond to these changes to make sure Graham & Brown remains at the very forefront of our industry, with a more efficient, flexible, sustainable and digital-led operation capable of delivering our customers’ changing needs and meeting our ESG goals.

“We plan to continue growing and adapting the capacity of our new digital production facility over the coming years, which will ensure we can manufacture the most innovative, design-led wallpapers for our customers and fulfil our ambition to be the world’s leading wallcovering design house.”