Pittards was established by Charles Pittard in Yeovil, Somerset, in 1826 as a leather dressing business supplying the many glove makers in the local area. Originally, Pittards would have worked only with local Somerset sheepskins, but in the early 20th century the company began sourcing from Africa. It was recognized that Cabretta or “hairsheep” skins were more suitable for glove making with their finer hair follicles and high tensile strength.
During the early twentieth century, the company developed skills in dyeing leathers and imparting technical qualities such as waterproof and washable leathers – a major breakthrough that drove sales of dress gloves, as well as establishing partnerships with the military for better performing gloves for soldiers and pilots.
Key to success
Key to the success of Pittards leathers was the early use of consumer advertising, through advertising in women’s magazines and the production of care tags that could be attached to the gloves. They even organised in-store demonstrations on how to wash gloves. As the company expanded, it acquired other leather manufacturers such as R&A Kohnstamm, Keunen Bros and W&H Miers which produced specialty shoe upper and handbag leathers. The Pittards Group was formed as a forward-looking, expanding company which nonetheless remembered its heritage. New factories were built to replace outgrown premises in the main sites in Yeovil, Leeds and Irthlingborough, Northants, and each was equipped with the latest tannery equipment to stay at the forefront of leather manufacturing.
Garnar booth plc
In 1987 the Pittards Group merged with Garnar Booth plc, one of its largest UK competitors, which expanded its range of products into clothing leathers and some more niche products such as chamois leather and gave it more control over its UK supply chain.