Melin Tregwynt celebrates its 110th year by completing employee ownership deal

The Pembrokeshire-based Woollen mill has been in the same family since its foundation in 1912

Melin Tregwynt, the iconic woollen mill and shop, has officially transitioned to an Employee Ownership Trust after its current owners Eifion and Amanda Griffiths handed over the reins to 42 employees of the company. Melin Tregwynt was supported in its transition by Social Business Wales, which is delivered by the Wales Cooperative Centre.

The mill was founded by Eifion’s grandfather in 1912 who bought a small Pembrokeshire textile mill, which has since developed into a thriving company weaving woollen blankets, bedspreads, fabrics and much more.

Alongside its own stock ranges the company specialise in short runs and exclusive designs for hotels, designers and specifiers and, over the years, has worked with companies as diverse as John Lewis, Heals, Liberty’s, Muji, Margaret Howell, Comme des Garcons and the BBC, who have all commissioned exclusive ranges.

Its blankets and throws have been designed both for the Celebrity Big Brother house and the Apprentice, and it has also worked on collaborative projects with the Tate Gallery, the Victoria & Albert Museum, National Theatre Wales and the Community Foundation in Wales.

In 2008, the team successfully wove the largest recorded picnic blanket in the world. This 40 x 45 meter blanket is still in the Guinness Book of Records.

Now the business has been transferred to the ownership of its 42 employees via a trust, giving them all a stake in the future of the business. This will preserve traditional skills and the knowledge gathered over a century or more, since the company was founded.

Eifion and Amanda will remain in the business on a part time basis, and Eifion explained the reasons for the transition to employee ownership: “Amanda and I inherited the business and have grown it substantially over the last 35 years but now we want to take a step back.

“It was important for us that Melin Tregwynt remained a viable business and part of its local community, and employee ownership provided the perfect solution for us.

“We will guide the new management board through the transition, but most importantly the 42 strong workforce will keep their jobs and skills and knowledge will be remain here and be kept alive.”

Eifion added: “We are still very much a family business – just not in blood, but in ethos, belief and tradition. Many employees have worked here for decades, and we even had three generations of one family as part of our team. I am proud to be passing on the company to the new employee board who I know will take the business to new levels of growth.”

Louise Clarke, who is the Retail Manager at Melin Tregwynt and now a member of the Trust that has acquired the business, said: “We are proud to be taking over this business and to have Eifion and Amanda here to help as we as take our first steps is great.

“Melin Tregwynt has such a strong base here in West Wales it would have been a tragedy to see it bought out by another company and possibly changed forever, so we are honoured that the Griffiths family has chosen to trust us as employees with their family business. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us at Melin Tregwynt.”

Melin Tregwynt was supported in its transition to Employee Ownership by the Employee Ownership Wales team at Social Business Wales.

Derek Walker, Chief Executive of the Wales Co-operative Centre which delivers Social Business Wales, said: “It is wonderful to see an Employee Ownership Trust being used in this way, to safeguard not only jobs, but also the heritage.

“As Eifion said, this is the perfect way to pass a business on to people who already have a vested interest in it. Employee-owned companies are innovative, motivated and adaptable – and to see a 110 year old business take this brave next step shows how important employee ownership is.

“In fact, not many people realise that being employee owned is one of the fast growing and modern business models in the UK. Some of the UK’s most successful companies are employee owned, such as John Lewis, Unipart and here in Wales, Tregroes Waffles and Cwmni Da amongst others. It is a great way to pass thriving companies onto the next generation and is why we want to encourage more soon to be retiring founders and employees to consider it as an option,” Derek added.

Last June, the Welsh Government committed to doubling the number of employee-owned businesses in Wales over the next Senedd term and since then Social Business Wales, have seen a big surge in the number of businesses coming forward looking to make that transition.

The Employee Ownership Association estimates that the employee owned sector accounts for around 3% of UK GDP and the number of employee owned businesses grows by 10% year-on-year. There are currently 2-3 employee buy-out deals being done in Wales each year but the potential exists for many more. Business Wales and Social Business Wales offer specialist advice to support employee buy outs.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “I’m very pleased with this news which secures the long history and heritage of Melin Tregwynt in an innovative way.  One of our Programme of Government commitments is to provide greater support for worker buyouts and seek to double the number of employee-owned businesses.  We have recently approved £70,000 in additional support for promoting employee ownership in Wales and are looking at what further needs to be done to provide greater support for worker buyouts. I wish the team at Melin Tregwynt every success for the future.”

Geldards, one of the leading advisors on Employee and Ownership Trusts in Wales, advised the Employee Ownership Trust (EOT) on the acquisition of Melin Tregwynt from the Griffiths family.

Led by Geldards’ Tax Partner Andrew Evans and supported by Alex Butler, a Partner in the Corporate team, they advised on the structure and establishment of the Employee Ownership Trust (EOT).  As well as finalising the terms of the acquisition, the Geldards’ team helped guide the employees through the process and provided support to ensure a successful transfer of ownership.

Andrew Evans, Partner at Geldards, said: “Geldards were delighted to act for Melin Tregwynt and achieve a smooth transition to ownership by an EOT. The transition will help the continuation of the successful woollen mill business and cafe in its unique location, as well as protecting the business legacy of Eifion and Amanda.

“The usage of EOTs has increased dramatically over the past two years, a trend which both protects the business’s legacy and retains employees’ jobs, and we were proud to be part of this next step for Melin Tregwynt.”

The Employee Ownership Wales service is part of the Social Business Wales programme delivered by the Wales Co-operative Centre. It is part of the Business Wales family and funded by Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund.

For more information about employee ownership, visit: https://employeeownershipwales.co.uk/

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