A CRAFTING supplies firm is primed to expand further across the country, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Crafter’s Companion is looking at potential sites to bolster its retail offering after exports topped £10m.

The Echo understands locations are now being assessed as the business strives to take greater strides in an evolving retail sector.

The business, which has its headquarters in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, has already extended its presence with stores and concessions into Derbyshire, Worcestershire and Lancashire.

After opening a Chesterfield-based Dobbies Garden Centre outlet, it moved into Evesham’s Valley Shopping Village, on the outskirts of Worcester, and latterly a concession in a Boundary Mills store near Burnley.

It is also working in partnership with Sherborne-based art and craft company Imagination Crafts to provide an expanded product offering alongside new ranges.

However, founder Sara Davies told the Echo she wants to maintain such domestic momentum, which she said will complement strong demand across the US and Europe, and the enduring impact of its move into Aycliffe’s former Holiways Ford car showroom.

She said: “Our exports are up 92 per cent to £10.3m, with the US a big growth market and Europe showing a lot of growth too.

“We are exhibiting at more trade shows and have put our stamp on the craft market.

“We are already big in the UK and have ambitious plans for the future on the store front.”

Mrs Davies, who holds an MBE and has received multiple industry awards in recognition of her firm’s achievements, says those plans will mirror existing operations, by trying to marry casual customers with traditionalists.

Highlighting its Aycliffe base, which supplements space for demonstrations, workshops and classes with a café and shop, she said the business’ prospective expansion will provide an all-round offering, creating a ‘day-out’ experience for customers and a platform for greater sales.

She said: “The retail sector is challenging at the moment, but we are in a niche industry and have a full, multi-channel strategy, which has successfully grown sales.

“We’ve had to be innovative, in terms of reaching the customer, and that’s all been about making it an experiential shopping environment.

“We have created somewhere where people can have an experience, where they can come for a day out.”

The progress of the company, formerly headquartered in Coundon, near Bishop Auckland, is a major North-East business success story, with Mrs Davies having founded the venture from her student bedroom while studying a management degree at the University of York.

Today, boosted by her appearances on national and international TV shopping channels, it serves the needs of customers both locally and worldwide, with well in excess of 100 staff on its payroll, and Mrs Davies admits it hasn’t gone unnoticed in the community.

She added: “I get people coming up to me and telling me that they are proud of me for what I’ve achieved.

“That is lovely.”

  • Don’t miss Thursday's Northern Echo, which is an International Women’s Day special edition and features an interview with Mrs Davies on her experiences of gender equality