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Japanese fans boost sales of Morris designs

Japanese fans of William Morris patterns helped pre-tax profits at the wallpaper and fabric firm Walker Greenbank to rise 11 per cent to £2.7m in six months.

John Sach, chief executive, said Walker's sales in Japan soared 50 per cent between January and July. "The Japanese absolutely love Morris & Co," he said. "It goes beyond their walls. We're licensing Morris & Co for use on female clothing and upmarket handbags too."

In the UK, Walker Greenbank's biggest market, sales rose 5.6 per cent during the six months.

Mr Sach said the company's launch of a new, cheaper wallpaper brand, Scion, whose rolls cost £20-£40 a metre, had "contributed well". He added: "It's not easy in the UK, but we're doing better than other people."

The company said overall sales had been strongest on its famous brands, which include Sanderson, Harlequin and Orla Kiely, where they grew 4.5 per cent to £29.6m.

In the US, revenues rose 21 per cent in the first half, "the first significant growth we've seen since recession", said Mr Sach.