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Stevens & Graham overseas deal

TARTAN carpet business Stevens & Graham has secured a US distribution deal worth $1 million (£590,000) a year which the Scottish firm hopes will be the first in a series of overseas contracts.

The arrangement will see Stark, a New York-based carpet, fabric and wall-coverings business, distribute the Scottish firm's products to interior designers throughout North America.

Black Watch, Hunting Stewart, Wallace and McLeod will be among the tartans featuring on the carpets, which will ultimately be bound for hotels, cruise liners and high-end apartments.

The US expansion comes after Stevens & Graham, which built its reputation supplying tartan carpets to hotels, golf clubs and retailers, was acquired by entrepreneur John McIlvogue last year

Mr McIlvogue, who bought the firm from its original owning family, said he has been focused on building exports since arriving at the business last year.

He said the deal will allow it to add six to its 12-strong staff within the next year.

The company is also about to open a showroom in Glasgow's Bath Street, in the ground floor of a Georgian townhouse.

Mr McIlvogue said: "Export is the key to this business in order to make it really succeed. There are simply not enough people in Scotland unfortunately.

"The American market is obviously one that is extremely important to us. It's 300 million people, there are a lot of Scottish ties there and tartan, outwith the history and the clan element, is extremely fashionable as well at the moment.

"The American deal will allow us to expand further and employ some more people to deal with it."

Stevens & Graham, which was established in 1947, currently employs 12 full-time staff at its current 15,000 square foot warehouse and showroom in Polmadie, Glasgow.

The carpets are designed in Scotland but ultimately manufactured in England.

Mr McIlvogue, who also owns a flooring business, JMV Carpets, said he would like all aspects of the production process to be handled north of the Border.

He said: "We would love to manufacture in Scotland, but unfortunately there are no mills in Scotland anymore.

"The aim of the company would be to bring manufacturing back to Glasgow, but the skills just aren't there. All our carpets are made on old Axminster looms from the 1940s and 1950s.

"The guys that tune these and maintain them are long gone. It's very, very difficult to find that type of labour."

The US deal was announced in the week Stevens & Graham supplied a Wallace tartan carpet for a 20th anniversary screening of Braveheart in Edinburgh.

That came after it provided a carpet for an event attended by Ryder Cup captains Paul McGinley and Tom Watson in Perth ahead of this September's matches at Gleneagles, and one for the recent US Open.

Mr McIlvogue is not convinced events such as the Commonwealth Games and Ryder Cup will have a direct spin-off for his business, but said the appeal of Scottish heritage across the Atlantic is not in doubt.

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