Burberry has abandoned its plans to establish a new factory in Leeds that will produce its trademark trenchcoats. The site had been the centrepiece of a vaunted £50 million investment in its British manufacturing base.
In 2015, the luxury brand announced the ambitious plan, however, it has now confirmed that the 4-hectare (10-acre) site in Leeds is to be sold off following several years of stalling in the wake of the Brexit vote. The scheme was the brainchild of Christopher Bailey, the former chief executive of Burberry.
The proposed factory would have enabled the firm to produce the coats and the gabardine cloth that they are made from under one roof. Currently, they are made by an 800-strong workforce at two separate sites that are located in Keighley and Castleford.
Burberry planned to utilise the new facility to triple its production run in the United Kingdom of 5,000 coats per week and create 200 additional jobs. However, the enthusiasm of the company for the project, dubbed as Project Artisan, started to wane in 2016 as it considered the impact of the decision of Britain to withdraw from the European Union would have on the group.
Burberry has annual sales amounting to £2.7 billion, approximately two-thirds of which are in overseas markets. The pause coincided with the arrival of Marco Gobbetti, its new chief executive. The year after, it scaled back the project, dropping the plans to redevelop the neighbouring Grade I-listed Temple Mill.
In 2018, Yorkshire-born Bailey, who was credited with helping transform Burberry from a small UK firm into a global fashion brand, left the business.
Last Friday, Julie Brown, the chief operating and financial officer of Burberry, stated: “We can confirm that we have decided to sell the land we own in central Leeds. After a detailed review, we concluded that the site is not suitable to support our plans.”
Brown said that the brand remained “committed to Yorkshire and the UK”.
She added: “As part of this, we will continue to invest in our existing manufacturing operations in Castleford and Keighley, home to our iconic Burberry Heritage trenchcoat. We will also continue to grow our shared services centre in Leeds, which opened in 2017.”