A FIREPLACE maker aims to increase sales as it targets US markets.

Spirit Fires, in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, says it wants to lift sales by 20 per cent and launch new models.

Bosses say the move comes as the market shifts from wood-burning stoves back to gas fires.

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The company employs 15 workers and is also increasing exports, with showrooms in Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and Italy.

Its growth has also been supported by work in hotels, bars, restaurants and private homes, with projects carried out for Best Western, Hilton and Mercure, and apartments in a luxury Chelsea complex.

Andrew Munro, Spirit Fires' managing director, said: “We’re in a strong market position to grow the business by around 20 per cent in the coming year.

“There has been a shift in demand from wood-burning stoves back to gas fires, which offer much higher efficiency for your money and are a cleaner option.

“We are operating throughout the UK, Europe and the Middle-East, with the US our next target, and we are starting to work with distributors to break that tough market.

“We’ve spent 18 months researching the US marketplace and developing new ranges, which will all contribute to our growth.”