Ipswich: Threat of redundancy for 130 workers at family firm Alstons

STAFF at family cabinet makers Alstons are today fearing for the future after being told their jobs hang in the balance.

Directors of the business, which has been passed down through five generations of the same family, announced yesterday that the cabinet arm of the company is entering a 90-day redundancy consultation period.

All of the 130 workers at the factory in Leslie Road, Ipswich, from managers to production staff, were told their jobs are at risk.

A statement from the company said: “During the consultation period, all available options for the cabinets factory will be explored, with a view to preserving the business as far as possible.”

The company said competition from foreign manufacturers, particularly those from Asia and Eastern Europe, and the downturn in the housing market has had a devastating effect on their bottom line.

A spokesman from consultancy firm Byfield, said: “Alstons make what you would generally refer to as bedroom furniture, traditionally the items that people buy when they are moving house.

“With the housing market in dire times, that has affected business.”

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Alstons Cabinets has a turnover of around �7million and to break even they have needed to produce 3,000 units each week, but with profits falling, the company began an efficiency drive last year.

The break-even figure was reduced to 2,500 in March and further efficiencies have brought that figure down again to 2,200. However, in their statement, the company explained: “The cabinets factory currently only has firm orders of 1,400 units per week, which means that despite these savings it is loss-making.”

John Alston, managing director, said: “This has not been an easy decision to take, but like many manufacturers we have struggled against a tide of cheap, lower-quality imports which has badly affected sales within a shrinking market for bedroom furniture.

“Despite reducing costs and improving its efficiency, the factory does not have enough orders to continue in its current form.

“During the consultation period, we shall continue to explore all options available to us, including downsizing.”

Bill Quinton, ward councillor for Priory Heath, was sad to hear the company has hit hard times.

He said: “I used to work there once upon a time, it has been going for years. It will be very sad if it does go because it has been part of that area for so many years and so many people from that area work there.”

The family employs a further 180 workers at Alstons Upholstery, based in Colchester, and these jobs are not affected by the consultation in Ipswich.

The upholstery side of the firm accounts for 75 per cent the Alston Group’s turnover and remains profitable. Turnover is around �23m.

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