Industry award helps leather restorers develop global markets

A family firm in East Yorkshire has sealed its transition from garden shed to global markets after winning a prestigious auto industry prize for craftsmanship.

Richard and Carolynne Hutchins receiving their award at the Southern Detailers Conference in Louisville, Kentucky

The Leather Repair Company scooped the honour at the Southern Detailers Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Richard Hutchins, who founded the business with his wife Carolynne in 2007, said the success will provide a platform for further growth across the United States and elsewhere.

He said: “We’ve been selling our products into the detailing industry in the USA and Canada for some time and as we raise our profile we’re now expanding to the Caribbean and even further south to Uruguay.

“It’s fantastic to win an award that recognises the quality of our work but the main thing is what it means for the business. We’re just a small family firm from the coast of East Yorkshire and these awards put us on the big stage – they are endorsed by the International Detailing Association and almost all the other category winners were significant players in America’s auto industry.”

Richard’s background is in car valeting and he met Carolynne when she joined the company as a secretary. After working together for someone else they decided to set up their own business and, after starting with car valeting, found customer demand taking them into other areas.

Carolynne said: “People would be so impressed with our work on their cars that they would ask us to do other jobs for them. Someone asked us to repair the damage on their leather sofa, and someone else had a problem with a leather jacket which had been slashed with a Stanley knife after a row with their partner!”

From the humble origins of a garden shed at their home in Withernsea the couple expanded to the Waxholme container park just north of the town and then to the Holderness village of Burtswick.

They now run the business from a unit at the Argyle Industrial Estate in Hull which houses a workshop, offices and training space for their four-strong team. Services have expanded from repairing and restoring car upholstery and household furniture to include shoes, garments and bags – from handbags to briefcases.

Own-brand products include a range of sprays, creams and dyes for the protection, repair and restoration of leather. Almost all the products are water based with the business having focused on removing solvents from their processes. Training is a growth area with clients from the UK and overseas visiting the Leather Repair Company for the tuition which will help them set up their own businesses.

Richard said: “We help people to set up cottage industries in the UK and abroad and they go off and find their own clients. One of our partners in Essex is working with some household name hotels and retailers. Another in Yorkshire is doing repairs for cars and motorhomes.

“We’re as busy as ever on all fronts, selling across Europe in Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway and now heading further east into India and the Philippines. We’re also working with standards and research authorities in the leather industry and we’re looking at partnerships with manufacturers and on the heritage side, helping to restore leather products from saddles to shotgun cases.

“The award will help us stand out in the motor industry and will hopefully also demonstrate our credentials to potential clients in other sectors who want to look after their leather.”