HB Textiles

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by HB Textiles'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 HB Textiles 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


Highlighting best practice
Richard Wood, managing
Sorting for African
Bradford-based family textile firm, H.S. Wood (Textiles) Ltd
was formed in 1974 by Stephen Wood, whose working
life had been spent in the family textile business with his
four brothers. Originally they were traditional wool merchants,
but then moved on to speciality fibre, trading all raw materials,
including mohair and camel hair; alpaca and cashmere, which
they also trade, have been imported from source where they’re
reared. Bradford was the world capital of Europe in the early
20th century in terms of the wool trade, because water was
soft and therefore good for scouring the wool. When the wool
trade diminished and scouring plants and combing and spinning
mills started closing in West Yorkshire, other revenue streams
had to be sought. That’s when they decided instead to focus
more on charity rags, from which they now derive roughly 50
per cent of their turnover. The following Review article depicts a
more complete account of this transition, written by managing
director Richard Wood.
The origins of H.S. Wood (Textiles)
My grandfather started off as an apprentice in the wool trade back in the 1920s,
making me the third generation to be in the business. It’s worth noting that this
continuity aspect is an important feature of the company – it characterises the
“feel” of our company and affords us a level of wool industry knowledge that’s
»Managing director:
»Established in 1975
»Based in Bradford, West
»Services: Trade of wool textiles
in raw material and garment
»No. of employees: 34
»Intergenerational business
with roots in 1920s
»Very traditional industry
H.S. Wood (Textiles)
all too rare in today’s Britain. While
my grandfather was an apprentice for
a wool trading company in his mid-
twenties, he decided to set up his own
company in the 1930s. He had five
sons, all of whom entered into the
business after leaving school, and one
of whom was my father.
In the 1950s there was still a strong
culture of line of succession within
family businesses. That is to say, a lot
of school leavers in those times left
school early and went straight into
the family business, working their
way up from the warehouse level
as apprentices. However, when my
grandfather’s business was sold, my
father, Stephen, decided to set up on
his own, trading in scoured and greasy
wool, mohair, alpaca and cashmere as
well as spinning and combing wastes
connected to the wool and speciality
fibre processes. This was the firm that I
joined in the mid-1980s.
After finding my place as head of the
company, I looked to diversify into
different areas of the textile trade
to safeguard the company’s future.
Wool trading had become increasingly
difficult due to currency fluctuations
and competition from the Far East. UK
spinning mills, after all, were closing
throughout the north of England and
fibre demand was diminishing.
Opportunities to buy charity second-
hand clothing became available and a
small private company based in West
Yorkshire was acquired which dealt in
wool waste, rags and used clothing.
Clear opportunities to grow and
expand this side of the business were
apparent, and traders in West Africa
were crying out for good-quality British
second-hand clothing. “It must be
British,” many demanded.
Clothing sorters have been trained
to grade up to 95 different types of
garments, all sorted on a conveyor belt
system. Thirty-five sorters pick out their
specialised clothing types and drop
garments into metal cages to be press-
packed into 45kg bales and exported
to Africa. Weekly, 40-feet containers
are shipped to countries such as Togo,
Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, and to
do this, 50 tonnes a week need to
be sorted to gain the desired quality
required by African countries.
Large weights of garments do not pass
the strict test of being good enough
to be worn, so markets are required
for ripped, stained or damaged goods.
These types are sold to Pakistan to be
laundered and repaired for the local
market stalls.
Over 95 different grades of garments
are sorted including: men’s shirts,
trousers, T-shirts, suits and jackets;
ladies’ dresses, jeans and blouses;
children’s shirts, T-shirts; as well as
babywear and household rummage.
Hydraulic presspack
As head of the
company, I
looked to
diversify into
different areas
of the textile
trade to
safeguard the
Highlighting best practice
Most African customers like to have
a strong influence in choosing the
correct qualities for their particular
markets, and they often send one of
their company representatives (usually
a family member) to oversee the UK
sorting facilities and arrangements.
The African market is becoming
increasingly strict on what they will buy
and what they will not. All deliveries
must have a certain percentage of
particularly high-quality garments
and they are keener than ever to take
British high fashion in both ladies
and gents. Gone are the days when
African customers will accept run-of-
the-mill unwanted garments. Indeed,
so strict are the rules now laid down by
second-hand clothing traders that they
are no longer satisfied with just UK
charity shop rejects.
In order to supplement these mundane
qualities we have looked to increase
the quality of the garments we supply
by buying direct from the British
public and paying individuals for their
unwanted clothing via Genie Recycling.
By going online, anyone can sell their
clothing by requesting a bag to be sent
by mail. Once it is filled, the individual
arranges their own collection time and
date with our nationally based courier.
Once we have received the bag and
checked the contents, payment will
be made direct to the seller via PayPal
We feel Genie Recycling provides a
two-way service: firstly, by providing an
outlet for the public to actually get some
cash back for clothing they no longer
want; and, secondly, by increasing the
quality of clothing. This, in turn, provides
garments which Africans are actually
proud to own andwear.
Political commentary
In decades gone by, there were
numerous opportunities (for young
people in particular) to build a career
in industry that unfortunately do not
appear to be available any more. One
such scheme was the YTS (Youth
Training Scheme) whereby school
leavers were offered a position in a
privately owned company, during the
first 12 months of which the wage was
funded 50/50 between the employer
and the government. This scheme
worked well as it gave time for both
young employees and the employing
company to decide whether the
particular job suited both parties.
Nowadays, by contrast, there only
seems to be apprenticeships available
for employing young people, and these
are bound with financial constraints
and restrictions not always suitable
for both employee and employer. It
would benefit small businesses and
school leavers if the government
could introduce some attractive new
schemes similar to the now defunct
YTS opportunity.
We help
which people
from Africa
are actually
proud to own
and wear


This article was sponsored by HB Textiles. 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