A CHIMNEY maker will cash in on nearly half a century of experience as it looks to grow its sales from £18m to £20m in the next year.
Washington-based Schiedel Chimney Systems sells more than 500km of chimneys, flues and chimney liners in the UK every year, and its European parent company has sales of £170m.
The company, which employs 70 people on Wearside, manufactures and sells chimneys for the domestic and commercial market both home and abroad.
However, its export sales have slipped away in recent years as the company now operates in 28 countries across Europe. Michael Ball, Schiedel chief executive, said: “Currently we export to Holland and Denmark as they’re the only European countries where we don’t have operations.
“However, we’re looking at growing our export market from our Washington site by targeting growing economies like Japan and the Middle East. We already secured two projects in Jeddah which are collectively worth £440,000 to the company.
“From a domestic point of view we have focused very hard on the renewable energy sector. We’ve seen a huge demand from people wanting wood-burning stoves installed in their homes in the past 24 months.
“We are leaders in the UK domestic market so we will grow by taking market share from our competitors. I’d be fairly disappointed if we didn’t turn over close to £20m next year.”
Although now part of a larger European-wide operation, the company was founded in the North East as Rite Vent in 1968 by John Garrod.
It became one of Europe’s largest chimney makers before it was sold to Granville Venture Capital in a multi-million-pound deal in 1996.
After a management buy-out in 2003, the company was bought by Schiedel and is the only UK chimney maker offering an industry standard training centre.
The firm has worked on projects at Newcastle United Football Club, Newcastle Airport and makes wall flues, ducts and chimney liners suitable for gas, oil and multi-fuel at its Washington base. It recently fitted a 40m (130ft) freestanding chimney, boiler, generator and exhaust system at Darlington Memorial Hospital.
The company also has offices in Wimbourne, in Dorset, and Coalisland, in Northern Ireland, and employs 100 people altogether.
“Our biggest operation is in Washington,” said Ball. “It is here we make our steel chimneys and we’ve invested £1m since 2006 in new machinery and improving what was becoming a very dated factory. In Northern Ireland we make ceramic chimneys for the domestic market that go into new-build homes such as Wimpey and Barratt.
“We are waiting on the Government’s Renewable Heat Incentive financial support programme. Once that comes out for domestic properties that should drive sales a bit.
“On the commercial side what we will probably see from the UK is organic growth as well as focusing on the Middle East in terms of project work.”