This week we launched our Back in Business campaign to help firms get on their feet again. JOE HARRIGAN speaks to an East Lancashire manufacturer that knows more that most about coping with pandemics.

As we battle out way into the new normal, Darwen metal enclosures manufacturer Ritherdon and Co., which celebrated its 125th anniversary this year, is in the unusual position of having some institutional memory of what to expect.

For all the talk of “unprecedented times” the coronavirus outbreak is in fact the second worldwide pandemic the company has endured, having survived the deadly Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918, while still in the same family’s hands.

Managing director Ben Ritherdon, the fourth generation of his family to run the firm, said: “That was my great grandfather running the show then but generally the way we survive various crises is we keep a lot of cash in the business and we’ve generally been quite risk averse.

“Because of that we can weather these storms when they occur, be they recessions or pandemics.”

The firm was first founded by Mr Ritherdon’s great-grandfather Percy, a Victorian businessman interested in both chemistry and magic in 1895.

Into the 20th century the company manufactured cycles during the Edwardian era and parts for the war office during the First World War.

However, it was the period after the war when the world was gripped by Spanish Flu that provides the company with its clearest modern day parallel.

Fortunately, the ethos that saw the company survive both the war and the pandemic is now helping them through the current crisis.

Mr Ritherdon said: “I think the continuity helps, it creates a family culture which is about sticking together, being loyal to each other and coming through things together.”

Staff had been preparing to celebrate the 125th anniversary on May 4, chosen to coincide with founder Percy Ritherdon’s birthday with a family fun day to raise money for Child Action Northwest,

Though this had to be shelved this year, the firm is still counting its blessings.

He added: “We’re very lucky compared to others, the order book is looking very healthy.

“Obviously, we don’t know what the economy is going to do but we want to thank our customers for sticking with us."

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