A CLOTHES-MAKER says it could open new factories and create hundreds of North-East jobs after securing a major supermarket deal.

The AMA Group, in Peterlee, east Durham, is making thousands of ladies tops for Tesco.

Bosses expect the agreement for the retailer’s F&F brand, which will go on sale in September, to deliver further contracts with the supermarket and other well-known stores.

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The firm has returned clothes-making to its North-East heartland and aims to create 150 jobs, with 25 machinists’ posts already filled.

However, Paul Watts, joint managing director, told The Northern Echo the initial job drive was conservative, adding it could open more sites to build on its Peterlee headquarters.

He said: “The revival of clothes-making in the North East has begun and to get a contract with one of the largest retailers in the UK is excellent.

“We are talking with other retailers on some lucrative contracts, and this is the first of those.

“It will be an ongoing relationship with Tesco and they have the option of filling capacity at our factory.

“It is starting with ladies tops, but it then could go to things like leggings, dresses and skirts, because they know what our capabilities are.

“What we do in Peterlee will also give us a platform for further potential factories and we are looking around the North-East.

“At its peak, the industry employed thousands of people in the region, and we firmly believe the plans we've put in place could recreate that success.

"We've talked about recruiting in excess of 150 people, but that's us being conservative.

“In reality, we expect the figure to rise significantly so we can meet the demand that is already there.”

Fellow managing director Julie Price, who previously ran lingerie business Essensual Lingerie after Claremont Garments UK closed its manufacturing sites, said the region is ready to retake its place as a clothes-making leader.

She said: “Tesco expressed an interest in working with us at a very early stage, and we are delighted that after months of planning and preparation, we can announce this deal.”

Jason Tarry, F&F’s chief executive, said it was attracted to AMA due to its links to the region’s renowned textile trade.

He added: “We’re really pleased to be working with AMA and helping bring back jobs to the area.

“Their expertise means our customers will be able to buy good quality UK-made clothing.”

The AMA Group’s presence in the region is a major boost to County Durham's employment landscape, which once boasted a number of clothing makers, including Astraka, Sara Lee, Courtaulds, Dewhirst and Ramar.