Historic textile firm rolls out artificial grass business June 23 2014

One of the UK’s oldest textile firms has departed from its roots and branched out – into artifical grass.

The Bradford-based James Robinson Fibres Group, which dates back more than 160 years, has launched Bespoke Grass, a new business selling a variety of realistic off-the-roll lawn substitutes that have already been given the thumbs-up by garden designer and TV presenter Katie Rushworth.

The former Craven College student, who presents ITV’s Love Your Garden, put the new turf through its paces when she used it to transform a garden in Burley-in-Wharfedale.

She said: “I was interested to see how realistic the products would look and how easy they were to use. The quality is amazing and, once in situ, you’d struggle to tell the finished product apart from the real thing.”

Managing director James Taylor, who is the fourth generation of his family to work in the business, says there were 
two factors behind starting the business, which launched in April.

“I’d noticed it was being used increasingly by comms, marketing and design firms in interior spaces, like Google’s offices in the film The Intern. Also, we found our waste recycling business was getting increasing amounts of it, and we were looking for an expansion area in textiles anyway,” he said.

The group has invested around £50,000 in the venture so far, mainly on warehousing, cutting machinery and a bespoke website, and aims to grow turnover to £600,000 in the first year – a forecast Mr Taylor already expects to exceed.

“We’ve carved a niche market to the trade, which wasn’t one of the drivers at the start. Landscapers have often found it difficult to source the product, because it’s often sold only in full rolls to the trade, leaving people wanting smaller quantities out of the loop,” he said.

“We want to get it to the point where it’s self-sufficient and the labour force isn’t tied to the main business, but to achieve that we’ll have to get turnover up to at least £2m.”

Bespoke Grass is the most recent addition to the group, which has interests in construction and agriculture and turns over more than £17m annually.