Cavalier consolidates wool manufacturing plants to boost profits

By John Maslin -
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Cavalier wool scour in Napier. Photo / Paul Taylor
Cavalier wool scour in Napier. Photo / Paul Taylor

A total of 68 jobs will be lost in Whanganui with carpet manufacturer Cavalier Bremworth announcing it is consolidating a major part of its operation in Napier.

The company confirmed yesterday that it was moving the spinning lines from its factory in Leamington St, Castlecliff, to the Hawke's Bay, a move that should be finalised by October.

As well as the major changes in Whanganui, the company announced it would be closing its Christchurch felting plant with 36 job losses. The felting operation would shift to Whanganui, a move which would retain employment for 40 staff here.

The spinning operation started in the mid-1970s and some of the staff who started then are still working there.

Paul Alston, Cavalier Bremworth's chief executive officer, told the Chronicle that the decision wasn't made lightly but it came down to a matter of volumes and logistics for the business.

"Consolidating the spinning operation in Napier means 39 extra jobs will be created and staff at both Whanganui and Christchurch will be able to apply for those jobs," Mr Alston said.

He said when the company was looking at its options it did consider shifting all the yarn spinning to Whanganui "but the site simply isn't big enough".

"The other thing favouring Napier is there's a wool scouring plant next door which means we're not faced with transporting the yarn to Whanganui. The point is Napier can handle the volumes."

He said the changes came on the back of a review of its manufacturing processes and market trends.

"Demand for woollen carpet has decreased over the last decade and as a result we now have excess wool spinning capacity across our Whanganui and Napier plants. In addition, we have felted yarn capacity constraints at our Christchurch plant.

"We're undertaking consultations with all the staff and working through that. I'm aware some workers have been with us in Whanganui for a long timer. Some might consider re-applying for jobs but for others the time may be right for them to take redundancy," Mr Alston said.

He said one felting line was already in place at the Castlecliff plant and the rest of the machinery from Christchurch would eventually be installed here.

Mr Alston said Cavalier Bremworth was "very aware" of the impact the proposed changes will have on staff and where possible will be offering relocation opportunities.

"This will be tough for all of our staff, particularly the impacted ones, but we need to future-proof our business to provide on-going stability and profitability."

Two years ago the company's then CEO told the Chronicle the Whanganui plant was a "strategic asset" and would remain so for Cavalier Corporation.

Until yesterday's announcement the Leamington St plant had taken scoured wool then dyed and spun it to produce yarn for residential carpets and semi-worsted yarn which is finer and stronger and used for commercial grade carpets.

The felted yarn that the Whanganui plant will produce is used in higher end Cavalier Bremworth carpets because it's softer and more durable.

The Castlecliff plant began in 1975 and operations expanded from one carding line to five carding lines. The plant had been substantially modernised over the last few years with new processing equipment and newer computer-controlled machinery.

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