Decline and eventual closure in 2007
There was never a doubt that JH Birtwistle was an extremely popular acquisition to the Partnership. It was a move equally welcomed by the company’s employees, excited to join such a prosperous and forward-thinking business. However, Birtwhistles did not have an easy time of it.
Despite considerable investment by the Partnership, in 1995, the business was forced to close the spinning operation in the factory. The weaving continued on, but already there were considerable signs of the company’s vulnerability. As demand for the factory’s services declined, the Partnership had some serious thinking to do.
In 2007, when a suitable buyer in the shape of Apex Textiles Ltd, came forward to buy both JH Birtwistles and Stead McAplin, the other fledging textiles business belonging to the Partnership, a deal was reluctantly reached. After all, as the John Lewis Board described to the Partnership Board, neither business had been profitable for nearly ten years.
The positive impact of both Birtwistles and Steads on the Partnership’s department store business could not be downplayed, and the Partnership continued to trade with the businesses for a short time after the sale.