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Fairlie toasts US venture success

A small Scottish furniture maker is taking its first steps into export markets with a range of goods made from whisky casks which are now being sold in the United States.

SATISFIED SMILES: Kenny Donaldson from Fairlie Furniture and North Ayrshire councillor Marie Burns.
SATISFIED SMILES: Kenny Donaldson from Fairlie Furniture and North Ayrshire councillor Marie Burns.

Fairlie Furniture's handmade products are stocked in the recently opened whisky-themed Luxury From Scotland store in Pasadena, California.

The US shop is a venture by Huntly-based whisky firm Duncan Taylor and Company to extend its presence in North America. It also carries Scottish products ranging from soft drink Irn-Bru to artworks.

Included in the US offering are chairs, tables and other pieces from Ayrshire-based Fairlie Furniture.

The company, which employs five people, said a sideboard can cost up to £2000 with a dining table and chairs going for around £8000.

Kenny Donaldson, from Fairlie Furniture, said: "If you had told me six months ago I would be selling furniture in Pasadena I would have laughed.

"I've been over there and have seen the shop and it does open your eyes to what you can do.

"The number of millionaires per square mile across there compared to here makes you think what can be achieved.

"It is early days but I would hope the interest [from the US] will continue to build.

"There is not a lot of whisky cask furniture out there in the market and Scotch whisky is such a booming industry at the moment.

"If we can establish ourselves alongside that, then it could allow us to position the business as another luxury Scottish brand and sell into more countries. We are really hopeful of developing this connection [in the US] and other markets abroad."

Fairlie Furniture received help with rebranding and setting up a new e-commerce ready website from North Ayrshire Council's economic development team.

Mr Donaldson, a product design graduate from Glasgow Caledonian, believes those changes will also help the business attract customers from further afield.

He said: "A lot of the products we now show on the website are things which could go in a container and in theory be sent around the world.

"Developing our e-commerce side of the business means we are capable of handling international sales and worldwide shipping."

Marie Burns, the council's cabinet member for economic development and regeneration, said: "Working with businesses to provide the support that they need is a key role for our economic development team."

Mr Donaldson also attended the official opening of Luxury From Scotland.

He said: "It was quite a surreal experience to be at a red carpet event in Los Angeles, in full kilt, discussing our furniture with the mayor of Pasadena and other distinguished guests."

Fairlie Furniture was initially set up as a sawmill 15 years ago by Mr Donaldson's father Jim.

It now specialises in individual pieces of furniture made from native hardwoods such as oak and elm.

As well as consumers, it supplies products to corporate customers such as Cameron House on Loch Lomond and the Turnberry Resort.

Duncan Taylor and Company has one of the largest privately held collections of rare scotch whisky casks.

Its brands include Dimensions, Black Bull and Auld Reekie.

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