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Weaving success with a vision

By Nick Easen for CNN

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Although a lot of production has moved overseas, Selectus' forward looking approach has kept it going.

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(CNN) -- There are few firms that have lasted in the apparel and garment business for nearly 70 years; there are even fewer in the West that are still turning a profit.

Ribbon and velvet makers Selectus, in the town of Biddulph, Northern England is one of them.

It still operates out of a factory built in the late 1930s. Aside from the addition of a few automated looms, the weaving, dyeing and finishing of fabric strips is still similar now to how it was then.

"This is a family tradition, (but) things are changing. As soon as you get things that can be mass-produced it tends to go East," Managing Director, Dieter Senn told CNN.

"A lot of our business has gone abroad and continues to go abroad -- we have to think of the future."

Currently, the company employs about 240 people. At its peak 10 years ago, more than 400 people worked at the factory, according to The Sentinel newspaper.

"When I look at the old photographs and see all the people standing around -- now (there is) hardly anyone in -- it is a very costly business to be sentimental," explains Senn.

Loss of jobs came when Selectus sold its trademark multi-million pound Velcro hook and loop fastener business to Velcro Industries back in 1999.

But this also allowed the firm to concentrate resources on developing its ribbon and narrow fabrics lines, as well as strengthening links with partners in Continental Europe.

"We tend to specialize in niche requirements. It is a challenge, It is about providing a service; it is about niche markets and new products," says Senn.

An increase in imports from overseas, and automation of the weaving processes, mean that Selectus has had to keep ahead of the curve to stay in business.

Part of its plan has been to move away from decorative ribbons and into functional ones, as well as to specialize, but as Senn emphasizes it is all about "having a vision."

CNN's Andrew Carey contributed to this report


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