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The story behind the Britwrap brand

Mar 29, 2017
Deputy Editor David Jordan braved the UK’s hopelessly congested motorway system and journeyed north to visit packaging specialist Weir & Carmichael; the company behind the Britwrap brand.

I arrived in Liverpool too early for my 11 o’clock meeting at Weir & Carmichael; for once the motorways had been kind and I’d made good progress on my 160-mile journey from Milton Keynes.  With half an hour in hand I took a detour along the city’s magnificent waterfront already bristling with camera-clicking tourists despite the January chill. The Royal Liver Building, watched over by its famous Liver Birds, Bella and Bertie, seemed a popular back-drop for group photos and souvenir selfies. It is said that Bella looks down the Mersey to make sure the ships arrive safely, while Bertie keeps watch over the city to keep the people of Liverpool safe. 

It was time to press on.  

Weir & Carmichael, owner of reusable packing supplier Britwrap, was formed in 1955 and moved to its present home in Bootle in 2010, having spent the previous 30 years a few miles away in Pall Mall, Liverpool. It’s an impressive modern building on a modern industrial estate once occupied by railway marshalling yards and dockside buildings.   

Marketing Manager Kelly Ambrose met me at reception and introduced me to Managing Director Martin Ellioth and Commercial Director Julia Pemberton. I was keen to find out why a company best known for making sacks for the food industry had decided to diversify into other types of packaging and in particular, products for the moving industry. 

Martin Ellioth, who is originally from Sweden and previously worked for Ikea, explained that in 2010 they were approached by a well-known DIY chain to develop a product to protect kitchen worktops during transportation. 

“The company was selling millions of worktops a year and around 5% were being scrapped because of damage in transit.  At that time we were using woven polypropylene for making sacks and our design team developed a cover using the same material to protect the worktops.  It was very successful and resulted in a massive 90% reduction in damage.   The customer was of course delighted,” said Martin. 

Polypropylene is a light-weight material that is very durable and almost impossible to rip, so the covers could be used over and over again, unlike the single-use cardboard sleeves the company had used preciously.  

Later, an enquiry from a major furniture retailer lead to the development of a mattress cover that would not only protect the mattress but enable it to be handled safely and easily during storage and delivery. 

“Following the success of the worktop cover we decided to experiment using the same polypropylene material for the mattress cover,” said Julia Pemberton. “The design team got to work and after several prototypes and testing by the customer and a leading removals company, we developed a protective cover and at the same time launched the Britwrap brand.” 

The removals company was particularly impressed by the durability of the covers and how easy it was to carry and manoeuvre mattresses during house moves. The covers were light and easy to stow in the van after use and could typically be reused at least seventy times. They were also much cheaper than the conventional quilted covers they had used previously. 

“It was clear from the trials that the new covers were ideal for the moving and storage industry so we decided to target our Britwrap marketing at that sector,” said Kelly Ambrose. “We use e-mail marketing and social media to make new contacts and we’ve recently launched a new website for the brand where customers can order online for next-day delivery. As well as the UK market, we’re keen to expand our business overseas so we’ve enabled the website to accept and process orders in other currencies including US dollars and euros. We’ve also received orders from Australia, Canada and New Zealand. 

 At the end of 2016 Britwrap added a polypropylene sofa cover to its range, which is also proving very popular with removals companies. There are plans to introduce other similar products in the future.  

As well as specialist covers, online customers can order a large range of packaging products such as polypropylene bags, floor protectors, tape, cardboard boxes, dunnage bags and carpet protectors from the Britwrap website; making it a valuable resource for both the public and removals companies.  

It was time to hit the motorway. 

I’d enjoyed my trip to Liverpool and it was good to meet the team at Weir & Carmichael. As Martin and Kelly showed me around the site and I was able to meet some of the 38 staff, it was clear that this is still a family business where people enjoy working. While remaining a market leader in its core markets, the management has shown that it is not afraid to diversify into new sectors.  A policy that will no doubt secure the company’s continued success. 


Photos: Top; left to right: Kelly Ambrose, Martin Elliothand Julia Pemberton; middleright: Weir & Carmichael’s premises in Bootle.bottom left: Martin Ellioth fitting a sofa cover.

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