Crofts & Assinder

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Crofts & Assinder's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Crofts & Assinder is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Alex Crofts, managing director
Knightsbridge knobs in
bespoke antique finish
Established in 1875, Crofts & Assinder is a British family-run
business specialising in the design and manufacture of cabinet
handles and luxury fittings. The company has a long and proud
history spanning three centuries – in which time it has worked
with the White Star Line, the Ritz and the Waldorf. However,
with the passage of time has also come the need to update and
adapt to fluctuating circumstances. While there is a palpable
continuity between the company in 1875 and the company
today, a great deal has nevertheless changed. Here to provide an
insight into the company is their managing director, Alex Crofts.
Moving with the times
Generally speaking, we specialise in the design and manufacture of cabinet
handles and luxury fittings. Our client base spans considerably, from distributors,
manufacturers and architects, through to interior designers and homeowners. As
part of our services, we focus on the design stage and on bringing new, innovative
products to a global audience. Indeed, being new, innovative and evolutionary is
something that’s necessary for us as a company with over 100 years of history.
Keeping up to date, both aesthetically and technologically, is how we’ve managed
to survive the many tumults that the company has witnessed during its lifetime.
For example, in the last couple of decades we’ve adopted a heavier focus on the
kitchen and interior design market. We’ve also decided to invest more in the design
element, considering ourselves more as leaders in design rather than followers.
Aspart of this effort, we’ve launched a new and successful high-end range
branded as “Special Works”.
»Managing director: Alex Crofts
»Established in 1875
»Based in Birmingham
»Services: Design and
manufacture of extraordinary
cabinet handles and luxury
»No. of employees: 26
»Worked with the White Star
Line over the course of our
140-year history
»Furnished the Ritz and the
Waldorf in the last century
Crofts & Assinder
Highlighting best practice
Another way we’ve adapted to
circumstances is economically. For
instance, following the 2008 recession
when the domestic market took a hit
(investment in furniture is one of the
first things people abstain from during
periods of economic uncertainty), we
actively focused on growing our export
market – a strategy which has paid off.
We also seek to evolve through
marketing and sales. Although we have
a long-established customer base, we
also wish to expand through activities
like trade shows, online exposure,
catalogue distribution, advertising,
social media and public relations. We
also have field representatives who
are ready and willing to visit existing
and potential clients; they’re regularly
on the road, identifying and following
up leads. In addition to this, we have
specially designed “presenter bags”
and products which we show to the
clients. When the product is in front
of the client, it tends to sell itself
– such is the quality and beauty of
what we offer. We pride ourselves
on this more tactile approach, and
provide our clients with more than
just an advertisement, but a genuine
experience too.
Difficulties and challenges
Some of the difficulties we face in this
sector include regulatory compliance
and keeping abreast of new laws,
which requires constant vigilance and
diligence. This is not a statement on
whether they are right or wrong; it’s
just a reality we have to contend with.
Another problem in the political arena
is Brexit – or, rather, the political
uncertainty caused as a consequence of
Brexit. We still feel there is insufficient
clarity on the final deal and its likely
economic impact. More concretely,
when we want to invest, we like a
degree of certainty, and when this
isn’t present, we tend to take a more
conservative approach on the levels
of investment. Additional impacts
regarding Brexit include currency
flux along with the prospect of
additional trade tariffs, which could be
problematic. More generally speaking,
this uncertainty spills over into the
consumer market, with many potential
buyers being worried by the rhetoric
and holding back on high-ticket-item
purchases as a result. In short, we would
like to see political clarity to increase
both business and consumer confidence.
Kingston handle in iron
Keeping up to
date, both
is how we’ve
managed to
survive the
many tumults
that the
company has
during its
An additional challenge surrounds
intellectual property and the protection
of our rights. A problem we continually
face is that we have experienced cases
where our designs have been copied
by third parties, which results in lost
sales and revenue. The only right
of recourse we have is to challenge
through litigation, which is expensive,
time consuming and risky. As members
of ACID (Anti Copying in Design) we
protect our designs vigorously and we
ensure all of our designs and patents
are registered.
Another, less political, challenge is the
management of material and other cost
fluctuations. We also have to keep close
track of competitor trends, technology
advancements, fashion trends, changing
consumer spending habits and
purchasing methods, as well as ensuring
that we maintain supplier stability. In
spite of these challenges, though, we
still expect to see continued growth into
the foreseeable future. Over the last 3
years we have seen continued growth
of 10 per cent year on year and overall
growth of 75 per cent over the last
6 years. Our export strategy helps
considerably in this goal, and we have
won awards as a result of this, the most
recent being the 2016 Birmingham Post
International Export Award. We now
have a strong presence in all corners of
the globe in over 20 different markets
– something assisted by a sales team
with multilingual abilities.
What characterises us
Not all is change, however. We pride
ourselves on our provenance and rich,
traditional history – something we often
find the opportunity to display. For
example, we have a pattern room, which
contains exactly the sort of hardware
we had on offer a century ago. We
also have an archive of all of our design
books from the 20th century, so if a
client has an enquiry regarding a very
old piece of hardware, we can always
help. Moreover, we’ve been at the same
site, Lombard Street, since 1901. Pride,
therefore, is an important value to us.
Our other values can be neatly
summarised as follows:
» Quality » Accountability
» Integrity » Diligence
» Respect » Positivity
» Creativeness » Customer focus
These sit at the foundation of
everything we do, permeating all levels
of the organisation and inflecting our
interactions within the workforce and
with clients.
Looking to the future, we will continually
review training and look at improving
the skill set of our staff and company
as a whole. We will continue to work
closely with the Furniture Makers’
Company (the furnishing industry’s
charity) as corporate members and
support the many good causes they
promote. On an ongoing basis we
want to improve our manufacturing
capabilities and supply chain. At
present, we’re hitting our targets in
terms of the sales of our new “Special
Works” products, and want to
continue along that trajectory. There
are also plans to diversify into new
product areas, with a view to growing
and investing more in this area. The
ability to navigate in an ever-changing
terrain is what characterises us and our
143-year history – and it’s an ability
we’ll hold on to well into the future.
We pride
ourselves on our
provenance and
rich, traditional
Henley pull handles
in brushed satin
Staff member polishing
a handle

This article was sponsored by Crofts & Assinder. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister