A Wick-based kitchen manufacturer is expanding with an intake of trainees this week, following a period of growth which saw annual sales hit more than £16 million.
Family-run firm Ashley Ann, which employs 150 people at its Caithness headquarters and is one of the largest private employers in the area, welcomed a further five apprentices to its manufacturing facility this week.
It reported turnover for the last financial year of £16.8m.
Established some 30 years ago by husband and wife team Stephen and Ellen Bremner, Ashley Ann now manufactures around 3,600 kitchens per year. It has eight showrooms in Scotland, and supplies 105 dealerships across the UK, with the majority of these south of the Border.
Stephen Bremner said the company’s flexibility means it can compete with its manufacturing rivals in Germany.
He said: “Throughout the markets we operate in, we’ve been able to demonstrate that our product quality is every bit as good as that from the leading German manufacturers, but with us there’s the option for truly bespoke products – which the Germans just can’t cater for.
“In addition, our lead times are typically less and, given the level of quality, our prices are very competitive.
“Although we’ve seen reasonable growth in recent years across the whole business, in our dealership market, especially those located in south-east England, the growth has been excellent and now represents around 35 per cent of our turnover.”
Bremner is in the process of handing the day-to-day running of the company to his two sons, though will remain in a position of chairman.
He added: “After all these years I can reflect on the difference I’ve been able to make to the Caithness economy.”