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Printing firm Headley Brothers in Ashford to make 85 redundancies

A struggling printing company has announced 85 redundancies as it continues to seek a buyer to rescue the 136-year old business.

Headley Brothers in Ashford will slash half its workforce as it contends with losses which reached £1.8 million in its latest unpublished accounts.

The company, which employs about 190 people, made five redundancies earlier in the year and filed a notice of intention to appoint administrators last month.

Printing business Headley Brothers was put up for sale in January and bought out of administration in March, when it became Stones Ashford
Printing business Headley Brothers was put up for sale in January and bought out of administration in March, when it became Stones Ashford

The move protected its assets from creditors and allowed it to appoint advisory firm Smith & Williamson to look for a buyer.

The search has so far been fruitless after a month.

Tim Elliott of the union Unite, which represents 140 staff at the Headley, said: “Unite are fully representing the best interests of our members. We believe that the company can have a successful future.

“Unite will ensure that members being made redundant receive everything they are financially entitled to.

The Headley Brothers'/ Stones print works in Ashford
The Headley Brothers'/ Stones print works in Ashford

“We are providing advice and support to provide re-training for workers being made redundant and have identified another printer in the area who is interested in recruiting 15 to 20 of the affected workers.”

Headley, which was founded in 1881, prints for a range of magazines and niche publications on the latest sheet-fed, web and digital printing presses.

The majority of its shares are held by the Pitt family, which had run the firm for several generations.

Its former managing director Roger Pitt, who was chairman until last year, is no longer a director at the business.

Former Headley Brothers chairman Roger Pitt is still a shareholder, as are many of the Pitt family
Former Headley Brothers chairman Roger Pitt is still a shareholder, as are many of the Pitt family

Its accounts for 2015 are two months overdue. Its most recently available accounts show it had revenues of £19.5 million in the year to December 2014 and made pre-tax losses of £474,000.

A long serving Headley Brothers employee, who asked not to be named, said: “Our next monthly pay is due to be paid to us on February 28 but we don’t know if that’s going to happen.”

He said there were fears the company would go into administration on March 2.

He said: “We will be fighting to get a severance package but any redundancy will only be one week’s pay for every year of service.

The original Headley Brothers shop in Ashford High Street, where the business was founded in 1881
The original Headley Brothers shop in Ashford High Street, where the business was founded in 1881
Compositors at work in the Headley Brothers print shop in the early 20th century
Compositors at work in the Headley Brothers print shop in the early 20th century
The Headley Brothers brand is due to disappear after 136 years
The Headley Brothers brand is due to disappear after 136 years

“It’s shocking how we are being treated. Many people have worked here for a very long time and have been very loyal to the company over the years.”

Headley Brothers was founded by brothers Herbert and Burgess Headley to print paper bags, bill heads and circulars for Ashford businesses.

The venture was such a success the brothers decided to launch a newspaper, releasing the Kent Examiner & Ashford Chronicle with Barham Boorman, who was also founder of the Kent Messenger.


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