M-Hub Tour of Pittards

M-Hub Tour of Pittards

Released On 23rd Sep 2022

If there was ever a tour I was more excited about, I can't think of it!

I grew up just over the border in North Dorset, moving to Yeovil nearly 20 years ago, I have driven, walked and run past Pittard's on Sherborne road literally hundreds of times in my life, but until yesterday had never been inside! A mistake I urge others to avoid - it is well worth the visit, the shop boasting hundreds of handbags, gloves (of course) belts, shoes, wallets, jackets and other leather goods.  You could, in fact, spend an afternoon simply in the shop (the thought did occur to me being a collector of handbags), but we were lucky enough to get a unique behind-the-scenes tour from John Loxston CTO and possibly the most enthusiastic person in Yeovil.

So once I dragged myself away from the gorgeous shelves of beautiful handbags, we made our way upstairs for coffee and to find out more about this iconic Yeovil company.

Established in 1826, the company moved to Sherborne Road in 1965 and currently employs over 200 people.  Makers of innovative performance leathers and beautiful leather goods.  That's what it says on the website, and what followed was a 3-hour talk and tour that proved this not only to be accurate but an understatement of what is actually achieved on the edge of our fantastic town, and beyond.

Now I understand that vegans and environmentalists among you may be holding your heads in horror at my open enthusiasm for this, but what I will tell you next may help you understand a bit more about the ethos of the company and all who work there.  The leather used is a byproduct of the food industry and animals are not slaughtered for people like me to enjoy nice fashion.  Pittards has strong sustainability practices that help reduce the amount of landfill from global food industries, using only hides and skins that are a by-product of the food industry. 

In Ethiopia, Pittard's work at its tannery location extends beyond the commercial and deep into the local community.  An on-site clinic looks after the workers and their families and support for the school is ongoing through the building of new classrooms, and establishing a supply of books for the library.  Pittards keeps communities fed, housed, healthy and educated and provides opportunities for skilled employment across the globe through its training and apprenticeship programmes.

Yeovil is now the main R&D hub for the company boasting state-of-the-art labs that test the leather for tensile strength, colour leaching, durability and chemical content.  Pittards has long been a leader in the elimination of sensitive chemicals, such as Azo dyestuffs and set the benchmark with its PFC (poly-fluorinated chemicals) free water resistant treatment ahead of the fabric industry. Pittards innovative performance products are used across a wide range of sectors including sports, military, automotive, outdoor leisure and luxury lifestyle brands.  We were shown leathers that are used for rappelling with no grip technology, as well as supreme grip to stop you on your descent, thermochromatic leathers (colour changing in heat or cool climates), soft enough and supple enough that a whole hide can travel through a wedding ring, and tough enough to withstand daily use in some of the most challenging environments.  The list of innovations seems endless - and I thought it was all about handbags and gloves.....

Our tour continued and we saw where hides and skins are washed and treated, where they are stretched and softened, and where they are dyed, cut and shaped.  We learnt about how the process is continually being improved both in Yeovil and in Ethiopia and how staff are actively encouraged to help solve problems, share knowledge and develop - both themselves and the business as a whole.

Pittard's supplies brand such as FootJoy, Nike, New Balance, Mulberry, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Berghaus and the Morgan Motor Group to name but a few.

Pittards is keen to reach out to schools, businesses and other groups and share what they do, how they do it and why they do it - so I urge you all to make contact - it's so much more than I every thought or could ever convey in this short news piece.  And if you would like to find out more about the important work M-Hub are doing to support all our manufacturing and engineering businesses please email hubs@yeovilchamber.org.