Paul Bristow Associates Ltd

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Paul Bristow Associates Ltd'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 Paul Bristow Associates Ltd 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

Co-directors Ben and Sebastian
Paul and Maggie Bristow,
founding directors
Paul Bristow Associates Limited, based in north Wales, is
a designer, printer and manufacturer of bespoke textile
products. Catering primarily for UK and European-based
clients, the family-run business prides itself on being a British
textile manufacturer – an all-too-rare phenomenon in the
21st century. This presents their company with both unique
challenges and opportunities – something they surmount
and take advantage of as a result of their business agility and
commitment to new technologies. In the following article, the
company’s family co-directors Ben, Sebastian and Margaret
Bristow offer an insight into this journey.
Bespoke British textile manufacturing today
As a British manufacturer offering a vertical production process, our key area is
printing using digital and screen methods. Because of the differing scales at which
these processes operate, we can cater for clients large and small, regardless of
complexity. We primarily utilise digital options for specialist work including art
reproduction, which allow for fidelity of colour and high-definition quality, which
are high priorities for our customers. Screen printing is ideal for larger orders, with
faster production rates and vibrant colour.
The exact form this normally takes is as follows: the client comes to us with a
concept such as a bag or a T-shirt; we then produce a series of visual layouts of
said concept, from which the client would choose. After this, we get to work
on samples and then the actual production phase, all of which is done in-house.
»Co-directors: Benjamin
Bristow, Sebastian Bristow and
Margaret Bristow
»Established in 1985
»Based in Wrexham, Wales
»Services: Bespoke printing and
manufacture of cotton-based
products (primarily apparel,
bags and kitchen textiles)
»No. of employees: 30-40
Paul Bristow
Associates Ltd
Highlighting best practice
»The company was started in Margaret Bristow’s parents’ attic in
»They worked early on for
Spitting Image
, printing T-shirts; Margaret’s
mum would take orders to the local post office in her shopping cart.
»Both Ben and Seb have grown up with the business and once the
school day ended would walk to the factory on Wapping Wall until
the working day was over, often resulting in having dinner in the
Prospect of Whitby pub.
Allthat’s required is a roll of fabric,
and we do the rest.
The ability to take a project from start
to finish in the UK, combined with
our high-accuracy printing, makes our
service perfectly tailored to our clients’
needs. We have the advantage of
geographic proximity with our clients,
and can therefore offer a much more
responsive service. Clients benefit
from this due to being able to spread
their budgets across a wider range
of products, creating more choice for
their customers and in turn improved
retail sales. Quicker lead time for
production also allow clients to hold
smaller stock levels, reducing their risk.
An upward trajectory over the
last decade
Growth was not inexorable though.
In his early-twenties Ben took over
his father’s role, working alongside
Maggie, in the business due to a
terminal illness, and had yet to fully
understand the business or industry.
The following two years saw static
sales, but growth began to be achieved
due to a sales restructure. This upward
trajectory has been maintained ever
since. Sebastian joined the business in
an official capacity in 2015 as a result
of realising that, although trading was
strong, the business had reached a
point of needing a major restructure.
Investments in digital printing had
already taken place that made working
with smaller clients viable. This had
opened up a large growth opportunity,
but dramatically increased the levels
of data required in the production
process – levels of data, that is, which
existing systems were unable to
cope with. Significant investment in
infrastructure, production facilities and
techniques have since taken place and
the business is now reaching ten times
the initial turnover, and continues to
develop more efficient systems and
processes to increase productivity.
As a result of careful investment in
digital technology and strategic changes
in sales, capacity has been freed up
within screen printing, which means
larger order books are achievable
without being overstretched. An
unintended consequence of digital
technology has opened up a greater
pool of talent in the workforce,
because there is an abundance of
people interested in this field of work.
Rapid growth has at times caused
problems, which is something we
learnt in the course of expansion.
Indeed, not handling growth properly
did, ironically enough, present some
of our most significant challenges.
Digital fabric printing
We believe
that we are
well placed to
continue the
fine traditions
of British
Beinglate on clients’ orders due
to failing to keep up with demand
without the capacity to do so resulted
in lost clients and reputational damage.
It was crucial at this stage to reflect
on what went wrong with a view to
ensuring something similar doesn’t
happen again. On reflection it was clear:
too great a hunger for taking on work
at undesirable prices was a contributor
to capacity shortfalls – not only due to
the volume of units which needed to
be made, but due to the poor margins
that precluded being able to afford
necessary investment. Correcting these
problems and successfully planning
for the future has been central to the
continued stable growth since achieved.
The state of the industry
Importantly, there also seems to be a
large shortage of sewing skills in the UK,
despite its persisting necessity in many
fields of work. One of the reasons for
this, we believe, is that knowledge of
sewing as a career option is nearly non-
existent for the younger generations.
What is portrayed often makes the
sewing profession look old-fashioned or
limited to poorer nations. This, however,
is an inaccurate image, and one that
we should be educating young people
against. If in one generation’s time there
are no people left who can sew, our
company and others like it would not
survive. The solution here may rest
with government resolve.
On the topic of politics, we feel that
leaving the EU will have a moderately
adverse effect on our industry in
Wales, as much of the funding
received from the Welsh Assembly
has its origin in the EU. In any case,
the Welsh Assembly has been very
helpful in assisting companies such as
ours. Of course, it’s worth bearing in
mind thatstrong trading relationships
with new markets interested in British
quality will also be an opportunity.
As things stand, however, the future
seems to hold exciting prospects
for us. Developments in technology
will broaden our market and give us
more potential clients to work with.
Quick, interactive methods of fabric
printing are on the way, and these
benefits can be achieved effectively in
a domestic marketplace. We need to
make sure we do not lag behind the
curve in this respect. We believe that
we are well placed to continue the fine
traditions of British manufacturing,
and that there is a healthy future for
this industry in the UK, despite many
fearing otherwise.
Too great a
hunger for
taking on
work at
prices was a
contributor to
Screen printing T-shirts

This article was sponsored by Paul Bristow Associates Ltd. 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 Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng.

Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng

This year’s Parliamentary Review reflects on a tumultuous and extraordinary year, globally and nationally. As well as being an MP, I am a keen student of history, and I am conscious that 2020 would mark the end of an era. It will be remembered as the year in which we concluded Brexit negotiations and finally left the European Union. Above all, it will be remembered as the year of Covid-19.

In our fight against the pandemic, I am delighted that our vaccination programme is beginning to turn the tide – and I pay tribute to the British businesses, scientists and all those who have helped us to achieve this. But the virus has dealt enormous damage, and we now have a duty to rebuild our economy.

We must ensure that businesses are protected. We have made more than £350 billion available to that end, with grants, business rates relief and our furlough scheme supporting more than 11 million people and jobs in every corner of the country, maintaining livelihoods while easing the pressure on employers. The next step is to work with business to build back better and greener, putting the net zero carbon challenge at the heart of our recovery. This is a complex undertaking, but one which I hope will be recognised as a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Through the prime minister’s ten point plan for a green industrial revolution, we can level up every region of the UK, supporting 250,000 green jobs while we accelerate our progress towards net zero carbon emissions.

With our commitment to raise R&D spending to 2.4% of GDP and the creation of the Advanced Research & Invention Agency, we are empowering our fantastic researchers to take on groundbreaking research, delivering funding with flexibility and speed. With this approach, innovators will be able to work with our traditional industrial heartlands to explore new technologies, and design and manufacture the products on which the future will be built – ready for export around the globe.

And I believe trade will flourish. We are a leading nation in the fight against climate change. As the host of COP26 this year, we have an incredible opportunity to market our low-carbon products and expertise. Our departure from the EU gives us the chance to be a champion of truly global free trade; we have already signed trade deals with more than 60 countries around the world.

As we turn the page and leave 2020 behind, I am excited about the new chapter which Britain is now writing for itself, and for the opportunities which lie ahead of us.
Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy