Money and Finance

Bid launched to rescue family firm Norville from administration

Written by: Andrew Merrell | Posted 08 July 2020 8:50

Following talks yesterday evening a bid has been launched to raise £850,000 to rescue once great Gloucester family firm Norville from administration.

The Raikes Journal broke the news on Monday the 120-year-old manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses was in the hands of administrators BDO with the loss of 125 jobs in Gloucester and more at its other three UK sites.

Most of the staff learned on Friday (July 3) their jobs were to go with only a skeleton team of 28 now remaining at the Magdala Road headquarters to ensure outstanding customer orders are met.

Talks between an unnamed prospective buyer are understood to have come to nothing last week.

All seemed lost with Bristol-based BDO commenting it expected only to be dealing with the sale of the firm’s remaining assets.

But now there is a glimmer of hope.  

Former staff from the firm have been in talks with a city-based businessman, Alastair Chambers, about rescuing the much-respected brand – and off the back of these meeting a fundraising campaign has been launched.

“If we raise the target amount funds will be used to strike a deal with the administrators to continue trading,” said a statement from the group.

“Everyone who pledges money will have their contribution returned as shares in relative percentages to the amount raised."

One person close to the talks said Norville continued to have strong relationships with existing customers and that the firm also operated in niche markets where it was difficult to find other suppliers – suggesting business was still there to be had.

“Norville produce bespoke products that cannot be produced anywhere else, from tiny babies, products that have helped with epilepsy patients and recently during covid supplying emergency NHS staff and a cancer doctor an insert to fit behind his PPE mask during surgery,” said Sharon Edwards, a senior account manager for The Norville Group for 28 years, who is supporting the campaign to save the company.

“We have amazing staff who have also dedicated their lives to The Norville Group.

“We are trying to save this local family run business and all its hardworking staff.”

Campaigners fear that if the company’s capabilities are lost completely some or all of its manufacturing capability could go abroad.

It is also understood at least one overseas customer has even written to Downing Street to see if anything could be done to save the Barton business, which is also believed to have made spectacles for the iconic Indian human rights campaigner Mahatma Gandhi.

Read more: Buyers are being sought for Norville Group after 130-plus staff lose their jobs

Read more: Jobs saved as family firm and household name sold after 100 years 

Last week The Raikes Journal reported the firm’s opticians across Gloucestershire and beyond had been bought by Hakim Group, a deal the Lancashire-based firm said secured 50 jobs and would lead to further investment.

But that deal left the core of the business, with only one choice – to close.  

Norville, described as “a leading, independent and long-established, manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses, supplying optical retailers with complete spectacles, including well-known brands” also had operations in Bolton, Seaham and Livingston with 162 staff in total.

News of the possible bid will need to emerge before a deadline of July 17.

To visit the fundraising page for the group click: Help Save The Norville Group Gloucester and own a share.

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