Case Study: The small British company Gripple, metals manufacturer

'We want to trade directly in the euro'
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The Independent Online

Gripple is a rare company, a small manufacturing firm in a northern city that survives by making a traditional, low-tech product.

Gripple is a rare company, a small manufacturing firm in a northern city that survives by making a traditional, low-tech product.

What makes it all the more remarkable is that it began at the depth of the decline in manufacturing and is now an international success. Launched in Sheffield in 1988 by the entrepreneur Hugh Fancey, Gripple makes wire grips and steel hangers used in agriculture, fencing and in air conditioning and electrical services.

It is an ambitious company expanding at about 30 per cent a year. It does business in 50 countries and sees mainland Europe as a commercial target. Ironically, from a country with few vineyards, its grips are used extensively in vineyards throughout the world as part of the trellises along which vines are trailed.

However, it is the industrial hangers side that is booming. Gripple has opened offices in France and Germany. About 85 per cent of its £10.5m annual turnover is in exports and 60 per cent of that is to the eurozone. Being outside the euro is a hindrance, its managing director, Chris Middleton, says.

"We have a unique product, but our ability to succeed is about our ability to expand and we need to expand in Europe."

"We find it easier to do business now barriers are down, but we want to be able to trade directly in the euro so we don't suffer the euro conversion charges and can plan strategy.

"We need to be on a level playing field with the people in Italy and German we are competing with. They have complete economic stability and we don't."

He added: "I'm getting a bit cheesed off with all this bulldog flag-waving. Entry to the euro is about business, not about loss of sovereignty or federalism. It is one of the crucial reasons why we went in to the Common Market in the first place - so that companies like us can have access to one big market."

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