An insistence on the best machines and a reputation for quality work is behind Nottingham-based Premier Embroidery’s enduring appeal as a contract embroiderer

Ian Widdowson of Premier Embroidery

Premier Embroidery is as close to Notts County FC’s grounds as it’s possible to get without buying a ticket. The back of the Derek Pavis stand looms over the embroidery company’s unit, Nottingham Forest FC’s ground is a five minute amble away and Trent Bridge Cricket Ground is just as close. Unsurprisingly, given their proximity, Trent Bridge, Notts County FC and Nottingham Rugby are just some of the direct and indirect customers of Premier.

The ‘indirect’ label refers to the contract embroidery work which makes up 80% of the company’s business. Companies fulfilling workwear orders for well-known blue chip companies, such as Royal Mail, John Lewis and DHL, regularly use Premier for the embroidery part of the orders. While Images was visiting, they were just starting a job that was destined for KFC in Holland.

It’s a long way from where the company started. Ian Widdowson, Premier’s owner, used to work with his father in his fabric dyeing business, but when the recession of the 90s kicked in, it closed down. “By complete chance the guy who used to be our accountant knew of an embroidery business where the owner was disillusioned and wanted to sell up,” explains Ian. “I went along, saw the business – it was basically one machine and the guy had three customers, but I thought ‘Yeah, okay, I’ll give it a go.’ It cost me £6,000. One of the customers was really good to us in the early days and we slowly grew it. In the first year we didn’t make any money. We were just subsidising the business, but we learnt a lot.”

Colin has more than 20 years’ experience on multi-head machines

There are currently three members of staff: Ian, his wife Deb, who is embroiderer, quality checker and customer liaison, and Colin Krupinski, who is the head embroidery machinist and has more than 20 years’ experience on multi-head machines. It’s clear from the moment you walk into the unit that this is a well-run, quietly efficient company where everyone knows their job inside out. “Clearly we’re not the biggest embroidery company in England, but we are a nice family business and we’ve got some very decent machines.”

The machines are something that Ian is passionate about. They have three Barudan multi-heads – a four-head, six-head and eight-head – as well as a single-head Happy. “We’ve always invested in our machines. In my opinion, Barudan machines are the best you can get. They’re like the Rolls-Royce of embroidery machines. Embroidery is all to do with the way the frame is moving, and with the Barudan it’s really precise – the quality stands out.”

The direct work Premier does tends to be workwear and schoolwear for those in the Nottingham, Derbyshire and Leicestershire area. “Embroidery is growing, it’s really strong,” says Ian. “There’s an emphasis on uniforms in schools: now lots of the schools are becoming academies there’s a lot of smartening up of the image of schools going on. We’re also doing more and more teamwear – we’re seeing lots of requests for print and embroidery together from football and rugby clubs.” The company has a heat press and also works with a local printer for these jobs.

As for the future, Ian says they will continue to grow their customer base while offering the same high quality service: “We don’t just embroider, we take pride in the quality of the work we produce. Embroidery is often the last stage of production for our customers, so they rely on us to promptly complete their work, turning their stock into cash and profits. Our passion for what we do ensures we deliver on time, every time. Our customers know they can rely on us always.”

Deb works on the embroidery machines as well as being in charge of customer liaison