Silver linings for firm that leads the market

Carrs of Sheffield 'Factory Focus'Eric Denton buffing a silver salver
Carrs of Sheffield 'Factory Focus'Eric Denton buffing a silver salver
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From the outside, it’s a large, single storey factory, much like any other on a Sheffield industrial estate.

Step through the doors and you enter a spacious atrium with ornate plaster work, wood panelling, leather armchairs and a bespoke carpet that wouldn’t disgrace the entrance lobby of a leading hotel.

Climb the ornamental staircase and you arrive in what could easily pass as the reading room of one of London’s exclusive gentlemen’s clubs.

It isn’t an hotel and it isn’t a club – this is Carrs Silver and behind the entrance, fit to welcome a wealthy prince, is, indeed a factory.

The enigma that is Carrs goes well beyond the entrance. The company is three years shy of its 40th birthday, yet it is already one of the top two or three manufacturers in its sector in Europe, heir to – and guardian of - a 300 year heritage, and boasts the skills that go with that.

The company was founded in 1976 by the late Ron Carr, an engineer with Sheffield-based precious metals refiner and metal joining products manufacturer Thessco.

Ron started making jewellery in his spare time and soon found he was earning more doing that than from his day job.

His timing could not have been better.

A year later it was the Queen’s Silver Jubilee.

Britain’s Assay Offices came up with a special mark to commemorate the event and, in next to no time, Ron Carr was turning out hallmarked gold and silver ingots in their hundreds for patriotic Britons to wear on chains around their necks.

The Jubilee wasn’t going to last for ever, so Ron Carr set about finding new products that would enable him to build on the growth the ingots had brought.

Silver picture frames followed – and still remain an important part of the business.

By the early 80s, Carrs had moved from a small shop just off Shoreham Street to a factory in Holbrook. Other factories were added as the picture frame business grew and by 1989 the company was employing 100 people on six separate sites.

Seeing prospects for further growth and an opportunity to do more manufacturing in house, Carrs acquired a six acre site and set about creating the 110,000 sq ft, purpose-built factory that is its home today.

The company added giftware and tableware to its core picture frame business and, in 1993, started making cutlery to Sheffield’s traditional ‘parish patterns’ for customers world wide.

Carrs became a major supplier to Harrods and within three years had opened a concession in the store, which is now part of the store’s world famous Silver Room and was refurbished earlier this year at a cost of £270,000.

The Carrs concession is now the fourth biggest in the top people’s store’s homewares, gifts and stationery department and recently secured a sale worth £165,000 from an Azerbaijani customer who wanted three sets of cutlery.

The Millennium and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 brought a further boost for the business and, in 2002, Carrs opened a concession in another London top store, Selfridges. Ironically, after a lull from 2003 to 2007, Carrs’ business started improving again just as the recession bit and for the first time in a long time, the Queen’s Export Award winning company saw exports exceed home sales again.

Then, four years ago, Carrs became the custodian of 300 years of Sheffield heritage, acquiring Nickel Blanks and, with it, the 300 year old Osborne cutlery business and 12,000 sets of tools and dies for making cutlery.