A FORMER underwear manufacturer, which turned itself into a document storage company after losing the battle with cheap foreign labour costs, is pumping £500,000 into expanding its base in Denny.
Store-Rite, run by managing director Fraser Morrison and his brothers, Alistair and Kenneth, is almost tripling the size of its operations by adding 250,000 cubic feet to its depot.
The firm counts the Scottish operations of New York-listed companies General Electric and Life Technologies among its clients, as well as law firms such as Bonnar & Co, accountancy practices like Twenty Ten Architecture and accountancy firms including Springfords.
Fraser expects to double the workforce to ten and believes the additional storage, designed and built by construction firm Cameron Harris, will allow turnover to grow to £750,000.
The staffing figures are a far cry from those of Maid-Rite, the Morrison family’s former business, which made bra straps, suspenders and other underwear accessories for the likes of Gossard, Playtex and suppliers to Marks & Spencer.
At its peak, Maid-Rite employed more than 300 staff at its three sites around Falkirk.
“Sadly, document storage will never be a massive employer of staff,” said Fraser. “At one point, we had three generations of the same families working for us. Most people in Denny either worked for us or were connected with our factories in some way.
“But sadly those days are gone for the textiles industry. If a member of staff in the UK costs £50 a day but workers in China cost just £2 a day then the savings that companies were making were massive.
“We sold our old machinery to a company in China – which has 30,000 people working for it. If you’re spending £40 a day less for each member of staff then sadly you can see why companies wanted to make those savings.
“We wanted to work in an industry where we couldn’t be undercut again by companies in the Far East.
“Although you can scan documents on to the computer and store them in the cloud, there are still lots of companies that need access to their files – a business operating in Glasgow or Edinburgh isn’t suddenly going to start storing its documents in Beijing.”
Fraser said the decision was also influenced by the sheer size of the former factory in Denny. He added: “We had this massive space, with no mortgage because that had been paid off long ago.
“Back in 2008, at the start of the financial crisis, we wouldn’t have got a good price if we’d tried to sell the factory and we wouldn’t have got a good price if we’d rented it out.
“So we decided that instead of renting the floor space in square feet, we’d rent out the volume in cubic feet.”
The Morrisons are trying to avoid some of the vagaries of the world economy that brought down their previous business.
When international trade tariffs were brought to an end towards the close of the last century, UK textile manufacturers found themselves competing with cheaper labour markets in Eastern Europe, the Far East and North Africa.
Maid-Rite switched production from Falkirk to Morocco to cope with the increased competition but its directors ceased trading in 2008 when cost pressures meant shifting manufacturing again to the Far East – a step they were not prepared to take.