THE Inverclyde company behind the Vango outdoor equipment brand has ramped up investment in staff and warehouse systems following its move to a giant distribution centre near Glasgow Airport, while revealing plans to create a state of the art showroom in Port Glasgow.

AMG Group has moved into a 113,000 square foot unit at Westway Park in Renfrew, with the move designed to streamline the company’s distribution arrangements.

The company had previously served its customers from three distribution centres, including two in Port Glasgow which have now closed. It retains a centre in Colshill, near Birmingham, which is largely used to store large items such as tents and caravan awnings. However, it too will close after its stock is gradually depleted, with the entire AMG operation set to be run from Westway this year.

Managing director Stephen Newlands said the “catalyst” for the Westway move was to “improve our service to our customers”.

And he revealed that it has already led AMG to more than double is headcount at Westway from 18 to 41. It employs around 125 staff overall.

Mr Newlands said: “We’ve had to significantly increase our investment in mechanical handling equipment [with] forklifts and man-lifters. We’ve had to [place a] special order [for] MHEs (mechanical handling equipment) with beams that go high enough to be able to work at Westway.

“Because of the scale of thing – it’s 130,000 square feet [and] four and half million cubic feet - it has got extremely high eaves.”

Vango, which can trace its roots back to 1996, distributes a wide range of camping equipment, from tents and sleeping bags to ruck sacks, clothing and footwear.

Mr Newlands said it had taken the company between five and six years to identify a distribution centre that met its requirements. It had hoped to find a site in Inverclyde but was forced to widen its search when those efforts reached a dead end.

Mr Newlands said the firm was keen to retain its loyal staff further to the move, which has led it to buy a minibus to transport workers from Inverclyde to Westway.

The bus runs from the west end of Gourock to Westway in the morning and makes a return journey after the shift ends in the afternoon.

Mr Newlands said: “It meant we managed to retain all of our staff that worked here, so it is all that experience, all that customer knowledge. There are guys who have been with us for 10, 15, 20 years. Two of our DC (distribution centre) staff have been us for 40 years, so you want to repay that loyalty. That was the right thing to do.”

Meanwhile, work is under way to transform the company’s Port Glasgow headquarters into a new showroom between now and May 2019. It will eventually replace the 34,000 sq ft showroom currently used by AMG in Linwood, to which it invites customers from around the world to view its products.

Mr Newlands said: “It’s been a fantastic facility for us over the last seven years. We’re going to relocate that by the end of the third quarter this year to our facility here in Inverclyde, at Port Glasgow, where we will be building a new state of the art showroom with mezzanine floor, meeting rooms and offices in what was our distribution centre.”

He added: “We’re going to be investing quite a lot of money in the new [facility]. We have got a 30,000 sq ft footprint here and we will build probably in the region of 10,000 sq ft of mezzanine [to create a] new double-tier showroom. So, it’s a big investment for the future.”

Mr Newlands said the firm’s overall investment between the Westway move, addition of staff and the refurbishment of its Port Glasgow head office will be “well into seven figures”. He said it comes as the company continues to grow, despite the well-documented challenges facing the retail sector, Brexit and the ongoing weakness of sterling

“You’ve just got to get on with it,” he said. “We are continuing to see growth. Our numbers are not out for ’17 yet, but we saw an 8.8 per cent increase [in revenue]. The bottom line was similar, but down due to the currency. We suffered in ’17 because did a lot of our planning for ’17 prior to Brexit. Brexit (vote) happening in June 2016 impacted everybody who buys products around the world in dollars.”

According to its most recent accounts at Companies House, AMG made a pre-tax profit of £4.3m on turnover of £37.1m in the year ended December 31, 2016.