From skins to sporrans – leather firm set to target new markets

A Yorkshire leather merchant that is also a leading supplier of traditional Highland dress and menswear has secured a £265,000 loan for expansion from NPIF – Mercia Debt Finance which is managed by Mercia and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.

J Wood Leathers is one of the top leather wholesalers in the UK, supplying a wide range of skins and hides to customers including high street retailers and clothing manufacturers. Following a request to supply kilt straps over 18 years ago, the company has built a thriving trade selling highland wear ranging from sporrans to kilt hose and ghillie brogues. It also runs an online shop supplying skins and craft products to hobbyists.

Based in Keighley, J Wood was established 25 years ago by Julian Wood and his wife Margaret. Their son Jack, who joined as a school leaver 15 years ago, took over as managing director in January this year. The funding will help him pursue his growth plans which include expanding online sales and product ranges.

Jack says: “I’m proud to take over the family business which my parents worked so hard to build. J Wood Leathers is well established in the UK leather industry, however the internet is opening up new opportunities for traditional businesses like ours. We are keen to raise the profile of our J Wood Highland brand and develop new product lines. With increased interest in crafts and hobbies, there is also potential for us to offer a one-stop shop to supply this market and build online communities.”

Gary Whitaker of Mercia Debt added: “Jack is bringing fresh ideas to this established and successful family business, and has already succeeded in boosting sales through initiatives such as the launch of the online store. This funding will enable him to open up new markets and increase stock levels to keep up with growing demand.”

Nicola Hudson of Walkers Accountants in Keighley and Taryn Preen of ABL Business provided fundraising advice to the company.

Debbie Sorby, Senior Manager, British Business Bank, said: “As a family business boasting a one-of-a-kind product line, the decision to invest in J Wood Leathers underscores the Fund’s dedication to broadening financial opportunities for businesses across diverse sectors.

“Our commitment extends beyond an investment – it’s about fostering vibrant local economies by fueling job creation within the businesses we support. With J Wood Leathers poised to expand its online footprint and meet rising service demands, this investment represents a pivotal step in propelling the company forward on its journey of growth and success.”

The current NPIF investment phase has now completed with the British Business Bank launching the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund II in March 2024.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.