Exports of tartan to Russia up 300%

SUPER-RICH Eastern oligarchs are Russian out to buy Scots tartan.

McNaughton Holdings of Perth is one ot the largest kiltmakers in Scotland and has some novel desighns in its catalouge. Picture: TSPL
McNaughton Holdings of Perth is one ot the largest kiltmakers in Scotland and has some novel desighns in its catalouge. Picture: TSPL

Tartan fabric producer McNaughton Holdings have reported a 300 per cent increase in sales to Russia over the past two years.

The company increased sales by eight per cent from £3.9m to £4.2m in the year to January and exports made up around 44 per cent of sales in both years.

Now Chief Executive Blair MacNaughton has said it should be plaid sailing for the Russians to overtake Germany as their largest European market by the end of the year.

Workers with tartan in the Mending Shed at House of Edgar's textile mill in Keith, Moray. Picture: hemedia

And he added that it is the newly wealthy in the former communist superpower who are driving the boom.

‘Staggering’

He said: “Some of the orders we have received from Russia have been just staggering.

“Usually they like to deck out their dacha with the most expensive fabrics and materials we have.

“The people that have the money there don’t think anything of splashing it out.

“We design collections for a number of markets worldwide so it would be hard to say what the Russian taste is. I guess you could say it’s more flashy than most other places- they like stuff to be quite ‘bling’.

“One that really stood out was a man who wanted the interior of his Ferrari kitted out in white cashmere that we were selling for 576 euros per metre.

“They have their own textile industry over there but nowhere that produces the high-quality items that are increasing in demand. The level of wealth is eye-watering.”

But breaking into the land of the Cossacks wasn’t easy due to the “huge” logistical challenges.

Logistical

Blair said: “There were huge logistical issues when we first started selling to Russia about ten years ago.

“Russia isn’t in the EU so we would have to get the right paperwork and would then have to charge the Russians V.A.T when their goods arrived.

“This made them ask, quite rightly, why they should have to pay British taxes on something imported.

“We now deliver directly to the door, cutting out the middle man.

“This has made things much easier and probably accounts for the boost in sales.”

But with the recent crisis in Ukraine and the brewing of a new Cold War between Russia and the West, Blair said he had “serious concerns” about the future of the lucrative business in the east.

Russian ban

Earlier this year Russia announced a ban on imports of food from the EU and USA as part of the tit-for-tat trade war between the two blocks.

Blair said: “It is very concerning because textiles is such an easy thing for them to add to the sanctions list.

“The current sanctions on food, which affects the Scottish mackerel industry for example, is only affecting the poorer people in the country.

“If they boycott textiles that may really affect the more high-end goods they receive.”

But he added that the Russians have had a surprisingly long relationship with the Scots textile industry.

He said: “There used to be a mill in Aberdeen called Crombie’s which did a lot of business with the former Soviet Union.

“If you look at a picture of the Politburo from the 70’s or 80’s you’ll notice they’re all wearing Crombie overcoats.”

One MacNaughton’s mills, the House of Edgar in Keith, Moray, hit the headlines earlier this year when it produced, but didn’t design, the controversial Team Scotland Commonwealth Games Tartan.

‘The White House and the Sultan of Brunei as clients in the past’

Factory Manager Kevin Stewart, 51, who has worked at the mill for the last 30 years, said their international client?le was viewed “with pride” by the staff.

He said: “They definitely take note of where the fabric is going.

“We’ve counted the likes of the White House and the Sultan of Brunei as clients in the past.

“When I first started most of our trade was to the ex-pat sort of countries with a large population of Scots. Places like Canada, Australia and the States.

“But now we’re seeing it go further and further afield. The Russian market is a big bonus.”

And with the referendum just around the corner, Blair is a resounding ‘No’.

He said: “With so many of our customers in England and Wales I think it would be very unlikely that they would choose a foreign supplier.

“We operate in a fantastic single market that has been running for 300 years.

“I love Scotland and always have but a Yes vote isn’t in the country’s interests.”