Case Study - Durham Box

County Durham corrugated packaging manufacturer Durham Box has hailed the importance of a business support programme, which enabled the company to fast-track growth plans.

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The Bishop Auckland based firm had just secured County Durham Growth Fund investment towards an ambitious expansion project following the acquisition of an additional 2.5 acres of land adjacent to its existing facility. The acquisition has enabled further development of the existing premises, with a 20,000 square foot extension required to facilitate further growth.


Work had just started on site when the coronavirus pandemic hit, and as director Daniel Morris explains, were it not for the financial support committed by the fund, the company would have put their plans on hold.


Had they done so, they wouldn’t have been able to achieve £1.5m growth in turnover, with the target of £17m turnover by the end of 2021 very much in reach.


Director Dan said: “Because of the support we’d secured from the County Durham Growth Fund, we had already started the expansion project when the pandemic hit. Had the project not been underway, the uncertainty caused by the pandemic would almost certainly have led to any development plans being put on hold.


“As it was, we were able to complete all work by the middle of last year. This gave us the potential to significantly increase our output, right at the time when demand for our products was increasing.


“We were therefore in the perfect position to capitalise on market opportunities and take on additional work. Without the development of the site that was facilitated by the County Durham Growth Fund this wouldn’t have been possible.


“This was huge for us – as of May last year the business was 25 per cent down because of the unprecedented circumstances we found ourselves in. But by the end of the year, we were 15 per cent up and this year expect to see growth in the region of 40 per cent.”


Durham Box was established in 1989 and now employs 100 people.


The company serves many of the country’s established brands, with a particular strength in the food and drink sector and following a £3million investment into digital print, which is unique to the UK corrugated packaging market, Durham Box stands out as one of the most innovative packaging producers in the country.


Dan added: “The investment in new machinery and the expansion of our footprint from 90,000 sq. ft to 110,000 sq. ft has been critical in us coming through the pandemic in a stronger position that we were before it.


“To put it into context, in the first quarter of 2021, which was spent in a third national lockdown, we were 55 per cent up on the same period last year. This would not have been possible without the investment we received from the County Durham Growth Fund.”


The County Durham Growth Fund is managed by Business Durham in partnership with UMi and is supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). All successful grant applications are appraised by UNW LLP, an independent firm of chartered accountants and business advisers.


Sarah Slaven, managing director of Business Durham said: “It’s so rewarding to hear just how crucial the County Durham Growth Fund has been in Durham Box’s journey during the coronavirus pandemic.


“The grant investment was designed to support the company’s growth, however that growth has far exceeded projections and at a time when so many businesses have struggled, it’s an even greater achievement.”


Simon Allen, investment centre director at UMi, said: “The past 15 months have been challenging for most businesses so to hear that Durham Box ended 2020 15 per cent up, with additional personnel, and recorded significant growth in the first quarter of 2021 really does back up the importance of the County Durham Growth Fund.”


John Healey, Corporate Finance Partner at UNW LLP, said: “There’s no doubt Durham Box’s expansion plans would not have happened without the support of the growth fund, and the company is now looking ahead to a very positive future with the increased capacity the project has introduced.”