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Black Country button firm attracts business from Barbour and Burberry

Dudley | News | Published:

A Black Country button manufacturer is winning business from some of the top names in fashion.

A Black Country button manufacturer is winning business from some of the top names in fashion.

James Grove and Sons in Halesowen have been producing buttons using horn for 155 years and now with the latest laser equipment they can put label names or logos on to their buttons.

Managing director Sue Witcutt, who joined the family business six years ago, said that James Grove imported water buffalo and ox horn from Asia.

It is the largest remaining horn button manufacturer in the UK with only one smaller rival in Scotland that makes its buttons by hand.

The business originally started out in premises at the junction of Birmingham Road and Cornbow in Halesown in 1857 and moved to its present site in Stourbridge Road in 1865 where the old Bloomfield Works was built.

The works was replaced in 2006 when the company invested £1.5m in its present purpose-build factory where about 40 million buttons a year are still made. Founder James Grove and his wife Ann started up the business and Mr Grove sold buttons made in Halesowen from horn and hoof from his hotel rooms as he travelled across Europe.

The firm grew and built up markets in supplying uniform buttons for the military, railways and the GPO at its peak in 1917 employed 600.

James Grove still turn buttons from horn and also uses polyester, corozo and casein as raw materials and the 20-strong workforce includes some highly skilled and experienced craftsmen including one who has been with the company for half a century.

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Mrs Witcutt said that the skill of its employees was one of the strengths of the business. "We make buttons to standard patterns but we also provide a bespoke service. James Grove is now winning orders from some of the biggest names in luxury clothing including Ralph Lauren, Ben Sherman Barbour and Burberry."

James Grove's turnover had fallen as clothing making went overseas, but it has recovered and the company expects the figure for 2012-2013 to be just over £1 million.

Mrs Witcutt said that James Grove was stepping up its marketing to attract fresh orders and was using its website to get its designs across to new customers as well.

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