One Hull business is defying the doom-mongers and expanding into Europe.
The Leather Repair Company, headquartered in Hull, is expanding its operations into Europe. A new office in Belgium opened earlier in 2019, and there are plans for offices in Germany and Holland, followed by Poland and Russia.
Richard Hutchins, The Leather Repair Company’s charismatic managing director, is fed up with the doom and gloom surrounding the UK’s imminent departure from the EU, but he’s not cautious about European expansion for his business.
“Come out. Stay in. We’re expanding come what may,” says Hutchins. “Too many businesses are focusing on what may or may not happen. They should be focusing on their business instead. My advice to businesses? Make the best of the situation and carry on.”
The Leather Repair Company has offices throughout the UK and offers a leather repair service for everything from leather jackets and trousers to leather sofas and car interiors. Home visits are carried out by leather repair technicians who are franchisees working for themselves.
Hutchins plans to repeat this business model throughout Europe.
“We’re really careful about who we award franchises to. Franchisees must be full of character, trustworthy, have a sense of humour and be able to get on with people. They’re going into people’s homes, so they need to be personable.”
Franchisees follow a rigorous training programme before becoming qualified as technicians. There are currently 19 people going through the programme in Belgium, with attendees from across Europe.
“We want to provide training for local people and create jobs in the area,” says Hutchins.
Have there been any challenges so far? “Not at all,” says Hutchins. “Language hasn’t been an issue. I speak French and a smattering of German. And the staff in our Brussels office speak English. Our only challenge is keeping up with all the work. These days people are keen to repair and restore rather than throw away. And that’s good for business.”
So are there plans to go further afield? “Absolutely. We’re booked into a number of US trade shows in 2020 and we have plans to open an office in Orlando, Florida.”
For this successful East Yorkshire firm, it’s a “b*gger Brexit” approach according to Hutchins, and full steam ahead with expansion plans.
[Richard Hutchins, edited]