Johnson Tiles to cease UK manufacturing, impacting 105 jobs

Staffordshire-based manufacturer Johnson Tiles is closing its production facility in Tunstall to move to an outsourced production model, describing it as “increasingly unsustainable” to manufacture tiles in the UK.

According to the company, affected members of staff are currently being consulted about the facility’s closure, with 105 roles in its production department being impacted.

Johnson Tiles has designed and manufactured ceramic and porcelain tiles in the UK since 1901.

Working with its existing UK design team, Johnson Tiles now plans to build on its established import business to continue to supply products which it says are “competitive, quality [and] on-trend”, as well as meeting high “ethical, environmental and social standards”.

The company says it also has the capability to design-match any products manufactured in the UK to meet ongoing project requirements, which is also aided by higher-than-average levels of product stock.

The closure was announced following a successful buyout of the business led by the current Johnson Tiles management team, for a sum of £1M. Previously, the company was part of the Norcros Group, the same parent company behind brands such as Triton Showers, Merlyn, Vado, Grant Westfield and Abode.

Following the buyout, Johnson Tiles will now operate as its own separate company. Its UK management team – managing director Stephen Dixon; commercial director, Rich Kelsall; and procurement director Jason Bridges – will assume full control of the company from the end of May 2024.

Johnson Tiles says the buyout has the full support of both parties, with both Norcross and the Johnson Tiles team believing it to be the best way to protect the brand through the current challenging economic period, as well as prepare it for future growth.

However, “an extensive review of the company’s existing operations” led to the management team’s proposal to move the business to an entirely outsourced production model.

Stephen Dixon, managing director of Johnson Tiles, comments: “We are, of course, making this announcement with very mixed feelings, acutely aware of what this means for our colleagues and what it says about UK manufacturing as a whole.

“It is with a heavy heart that we are looking to stop production at the Stoke plant but the cost of making tiles in this country – despite ongoing investment – has become increasingly unsustainable.

“We have a great sourcing business and, together with our strong design and customer service capabilities, we are well placed for the future. This deal secures Johnson Tiles position as a leading UK designer and supplier of tiles, as well as ensuring we remain a significant employer in the Staffordshire region.”

Thomas Willcocks, CEO of Norcros, added: “We are pleased for Stephen and the management team and believe this agreement is in the best interests of staff, customers and shareholders of both Johnson Tiles and Norcros. We are committed to supporting the business as it makes this transition and look forward to partnering on opportunities in the bathroom and kitchen markets.”

In its 2023 financial results, Johnson Tiles UK recorded revenue of £35.3 million, which representing 8% of Norcros’ revenue. Johnson Tiles also made an operating profit of £0.5 million, which represented 1% of Norcros’ underlying operating profit

In 2019, Johnson Tiles invested £650,000 in two new inkjet machines for its factory, and reassured retailers it was “open for business”, despite Brexit looming.

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