National distribution deal for textile firm

A Lancashire textile manufacturer has produced a brand new product that has been snapped up by two major UK retailers and created jobs in Barnoldswick.

R Soper Ltd is a major UK producer of home textiles with window blinds being one of the mainstays of the business. Director, Ben Soper, was aware the cords found on traditional roller blinds had been responsible for child fatalities and decided to do something about it.

He devised and produced a new, safer mechanism that uses a plastic wand instead of a cord. Ben approached Regenerate Pennine Lancashire, which provided free support to aid development of the product. Ben was introduced to a company that developed a working prototype and to a patent expert to help protect the new product. Regenerate also provided partial funding towards prototype costs.

The Kinder Winder prototype drew the attention of Argos, which will distribute it nationally, and B&Q, which will use the mechanism in 12 of its roller blinds.

New regulations coming into force will make many corded systems fall foul of the law, which has put the company in a very strong position for future business.

Ben Soper said: “Regenerate’s funding was a big help. Their advisor also directed us with the whole patent process and introduced us to connections I wouldn’t have found otherwise, including a contact at Manchester University who is helping us with additional product tests. As a result of the new product, we have been able to take on 12 additional staff.” The help was provided by Regenerate’s Lancashire Innovation Network programme, which is supported by the European Regional Development Fund.