THE new £3million ‘bespoke’ soft furnishings manufacturing department of Herbert Parkinson in Darwen will be officially opened tomorrow.

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman of its parent company, the John Lewis Partnership, will visit the Harvest Mill factory in Monton Road, to give the official seal of approval to the extension which expands production.

The firm is recruiting 70 new staff including apprentices to operate the new department and its specialised equipment.

His visit also celebrates the birthday of Herbert Parkinson who founded the specialist soft furnishings and textile company in 1935 and the firm’s 65 years in the John Lewis Partnership.

The good news in East Lancashire bucks the national trend for the partnership, is set to axe more jobs this year the partnership was forced to slash its annual bonus to levels not seen since 1954 following a 77 per cent drop in profits.

Mr Mayfield said he expects the number of staff will “continue to decline” even as the firm slashed headcount by 1,440 last year.

Last year, the parent company announced it was investing £3million in the new department to extend the curtain and blind service it currently delivers and grow the range of specially tailored ‘bespoke’ products offered to individual customers made by Herbert Parkinson.

The new specialist equipment will start production on March 20 and be fully on stream by end of July.

So far Herbert Parkinson has recruited 14 staff for the launch of operations and will continue to recruit additional workers, known as ‘Partners’ to deliver the full roll out.

The 70 new staff, including apprentices, which were announced in November, are on top of an existing workforce of 250.

Stuart Macdonald, Head of Branch at Herbert Parkinson for John Lewis said: “We are really excited about this new opportunity for Herbert Parkinson and what it means for the business and also the local community.

“Newly recruited ‘Partner’ will be educated in textile hand skills and specialised craftwork to offer a bespoke service to our customers.

“And our state-of-the-art machinery and cutting-edge technology will ensure each piece is created to the highest standard.

“The new department looks fantastic and I am really looking forward to seeing it in action.”

The new area will manufacture for John Lewis bespoke soft furnishings that will include curtains (machine and hand sewn), pelmets, swags and tails, tie backs, cushions and bed valances.

The investment was part of wider reorganisation of John Lewis’s soft furnishing and textile business which saw he servicing of its ‘any shape any fabric’ offer was moved from Darwen and weaving process at the site closed.

This extension complements Herbert Parkinson’s existing production, which includes the ‘Seven Day Service’ for curtains, romans, roller and voiles, as well as duvets, pillows and cushions.

The partnership unveiled a dire set of results last week with underlying pre-tax profits at the partnership, which owns the eponymous department store and upmarket supermarket Waitrose - were down 21.9 per cent at £289.2 million for the year to January 27.

Staff still on board after the latest round of redundancies will be handed a bonus of five per cent of annual salary, with 85,500 partners sharing out a pot worth £74 million, down from £89.4 million the previous year.

It marks the fifth straight year of bonus cuts to staff, having gone down from six per cent last year and as much as 17 per cent in 2013.