The maker of iconic cast iron Aga cookers expects record sales in Ireland despite the country’s economic crisis.
Aga Rangemaster’s new Cara wood-burning stove range, manufactured in Waterford, has retained high order levels and the company said this would not be threatened by the EU bailout.
It comes as the company, which has operations in Leamington and Telford ,launched its energy management centre in Kidderminster to combine the use of renewable and traditional energy sources.
In its latest interim management statement for the period from July to November 2010, Aga Rangemaster, which employs more than 1,000 people across the Midlands, warned its markets were tough but said it was encouraged by a successful year for Rangemaster cookers and a five per cent hike in Aga volumes as owners upgraded their models.
Chief executive William McGrath said Ireland had become an important market.
“Ireland has had a tough time in the last few years but we have a factory in Waterford and our stove business has been booming,” he said.
“Solid fuel stoves are much more efficient than an open fire so we launched a new product called Cara which has done tremendously well so we will have a record for the stove business in Ireland even in such difficult times.’’
Aga Rangemaster’s performance was offset by a further decline in volumes of all-in-one cooker-boiler brands, Rayburn and Stanley, although the company hopes to reverse the trend next year as a new range of boilers is completed.
Overall, Mr McGrath said he was encouraged by the performance of the brands during the autumn selling period. He said: “There is a squeeze on spending, a great deal of uncertainty and a reduction in mortgage approvals which we track so there’s a few factors which will make life difficult for consumers. You have to work on making sure the products are seen as priorities. People more than ever want to invest in their homes when perhaps they are going out less.
“Certainly getting the kitchen and appliances ready for Christmas is a big crescendo so it is pleasing in difficult times to see a kick up at this time of year.”
The company’s success has also been attributed to the appeal of its brands across generations and consumer groups. Aga Rangemaster said it would continue to work to ensure its products remain relevant with more than half of Agas now sold being electric.
Rangemaster has been the main contributor to the group during 2010, with cooker volumes up five per cent and exports accounting for 25 per cent of sales.
The UK generated 62 per cent of sales in the half-year, with 23 per cent coming from Europe and 15 per cent in North America and the rest of the world.
Mr McGrath said: “The markets which are particularly strong for us are the near continent so France, Holland and Belgium for Rangemaster in particular but what the group has got through La Cornue, Aga and Grande, which is our French furniture brand, is a global platform so we have access to lot more markets.
"One of the things we have hopes for is the new range of kitchens we have been developing with Charley Smallbone. We see that as significant – linking appliances with a kitchen and this week we are launching a new Paris shop and it’s a format that we would like to develop. Grange has a large presence in Istanbul and Moscow and our dealers there are interested in broadening the offering which could be an important source of growth.”
But Mr McGrath added the important development in the region is the launch of the energy management centre in Kidderminster – featuring the industry award winning Eco Connect product which manages the energy efficient running of heat from solar thermal and woodburning stoves and woodburning products.