20 jobs to go as hamper company closes

A long-running North Norfolk food, hamper and gift company - which sold goods to British shopping icons such as Boots and Harrods, as well as countries all over the world - is closing with the loss of 20 jobs.

A long-running North Norfolk food, hamper and gift company - which sold goods to British shopping icons such as Boots and Harrods, as well as countries all over the world - is closing with the loss of 20 jobs.

Cartwright and Butler began making jams, pickles, biscuits and mincemeat at Wells in 1981, and relocating its expanding business to Holt 17 years ago, employing 200 people and with a turnover of �1.5m at its height.

But it will shut the doors on its warehouse and Real Factory Shop by the end of March, blaming the general economic downturn and the collapse of high profile customer Whittards of Chelsea for the downfall.

Operations director Gill Martin, who managed production from the outset, said the closure was sad after the company's progress over the years.


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But trading had become difficult in recent years, with extra competition in the market, and the collapse of Whittards - their longest standing and biggest customer was 'the straw that broke the camel's back.'

The Norfolk firm made gift boxes containing mulled wine and cinnamon spice sticks for Whittards.

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Founders Marion Cartwright and Charles Butler, who now runs the Butler's Pantry cookshop at Holt, initially produced a range of preservative and colouring-free foods, cooked in small batches to special recipes.

The Cartwright & Butler brand soon became established with a wide selection of preserves, pickles, mustards and biscuits, then concentrated on seasonal products including mincemeat and lemon curds.

The business relocated to Holt as it expanded both its home market and a vigorous export trade, which saw them with customers as far afield as the United States and New Zealand as well as across Europe.

Contracts with major outlets sometimes resulted in order variations and over-runs, leading to the setting up of the factory shop at its Hempstead Road.

There was also a major expansion in to the hamper business supplying prestigious retailers and multiple stores, such as Boots, British Home Stores, House of Fraser, Laura Ashley, the National Trust, Woolworth's, Waitrose, and Pastimes. Overseas customers included Walmart in America and Marks and Spencer in France.

It devised hampers for special occasions such as weddings, birthdays and anniversaries, along with speciality packs with low-sugar and fair-trade products.

And it did gift packs of everything from foodstuffs to fluffy toys, with customers including hotels, clubs and charities.

Company spokesman Franck Thomas said: 'The current economic situation, combined with the financial collapse of a large retail customer has brought about the closure. It will be missed by many local people and tourists. Also the company will certainly miss such reliable staff and many loyal customers.'

The shop was now holding a clearance sale of goods from china to party paraphernalia at up to half price.

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