The family-run firm in Knutsford, Cheshire, which provides private label and branded beauty products for fashion houses and retailers such as Primark and Asda, bought Stoke-on-Trent based Pascalle Cosmetics in March, preserving all jobs. The NatWest supported acquisition joins Amelia Knight’s wholly-owned operation in Hangzhou, China, increasing capability by over 20 per cent and its overall workforce to 500 plus. In July a state-of-the art laboratory will open on the Stoke site, its expanded UK R&D team working on new formulations and testings.
“As well as adding instant capacity, we have gained the significant ability to make “Made in England” products,’ says chief executive and chairman David Salmon who founded the company 20 years ago.
From fashion chains in South America and Australia’s biggest retailers, to the US and Europe, the company is now in more than 24 countries with 85 per cent private label and the rest its own brands, AOC (Academy of Colour), Colour Couture and Hidden Dreams.
This year’s sales are expected to exceed £40 million, plus revenue from its Chinese subsidiary.
A talent for spotting breaking trends, speed to market with innovations to capitalise on those be they nails, brows or eyes, and a mastery of supply chain know-how are Amelia Knight’s hallmarks.
Underpinning those are business moves that, seemingly radical at the time, have proved to be spot on in hindsight.
The first was in 2000 when it decided to concentrate on cosmetics having correctly identified the growth the sector was experiencing.
Beauty products became what they still are today, part of a wider fast fashion industry revolution, driven by a celebrity culture and digital innovations such as online makeup tutorials.
Tougher economic times have also played a part in sparking demand for affordable treats and morale boosters like a lipstick or nail varnish.
Those factors have also coincided with China’s industrialisation which opened up manufacturing opportunities for Amelia Knight, helping it leverage its mid-size potential.
“It took us two years to open in China,” says Salmon. “There were many barriers to overcome. We adopted a dynamic approach, from simply buying from Chinese companies, we opened offices, created a relationship then opened our own factory in 2010.
“That has given us control over timings, delivery, R&D confidentiality and an international perspective and confidence.
“What takes some manufacturers two years to develop we can do in a few months.”
Diversifying the production base, that like all the other company investments is self-funded, will have other advantages. New products needing new machinery such as face masks, the latest hot seller among under-20s, will become possible.
Salmon’s son Mark, the firm’s UK director of manufacturing, also explains: “Diversification can enable us to side step the tariff problems between US and China as well as unlocking the full potential of the Stoke facilities and creating more manufacturing jobs.”
On the fashion forward front, cream blushers and new style matt powder finish lipsticks are the focus for Amelia Knight’s innovators.
For Salmon, whose family, wife Lynn and five children, work in the business, the next priority is opening a new office overseas, this time in New York. And then potentially more acquisitions. “They are the future,” he says.
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