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Getting the Royal treatment around the Old Kent Road

‘Made in London since 1947’ is imprinted all over the industrial footprint of one of our superb manufacturing businesses just off the Old Kent Road, writes Matthew Jaffa.
 
With Small Business Saturday fast approaching it is important to remember the day is not simply about  supporting our high streets but the whole gamut of niche, independent and sustainable businesses. Kaymet is one of those businesses. 
 
Kaymet are a producer of aluminium trays, trolleys and electric table hotplates and have been embedded in the heart of South East London - when it started in the basement of the Schreiber family radio shop in Elephant and Castle evolving into Kaymet.  
 
The Royal Arms ‘By Appointment to Her Majesty the Queen:  Manufacturer of Trays, Trolleys and Hotplates’ is adorned on the marketing literature and the walls of the industrial space as a kite mark of quality.  It is believed that the trays were used on Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation world tour in 1954. Kaymet was granted a Royal Warrant of Appointment to The Queen in April 2018.
 
Kaymet is very much a family run business.  I spent time with one of the owners and FSB member, Mark Brearley, who took over the business five years ago.  The workshop has moved numerous times since the 1940s and Mark is under no illusion that remaining in workshop number six is the priority. The redevelopment in the Old Kent Road Area threatens many manufacturers with expulsion from their current operating location.  
 
Mark told me that ‘The scale of Old Kent Road development being advocated by the Mayor of London through his London Plan and Southwark Council is not opposed by the local business community but they are fearful that the way it is being carried out will negatively impact small businesses….. It is the lack of consultation with the small business community that is most stark’. 
 
Brexit is another pressing issue for Mark.  60% of the business is focussed on exporting - significantly to the EU but also to other parts of the world. Whilst the weakening pound has benefitted the business on the export side, they have seen an increase in their input costs through increases in the price of aluminium and parts such as wheels from Italy and France. 
 
The ability to access skilled staff is of particular importance to the business – particularly polishers and metalworkers – and Mark states “if the wider European pool of willing, skilled workers is cut off then it will be a problem for us”.

The Old Kent Road Manufacturers are a vital part of the local economy, and a celebratory booklet has been produced by the manufacturers in the area to showcase this, and other, hidden gems.
 
Small Business Saturday on the 1st December provides an opportunity for us to all ‘think small first’ and celebrate the importance of micro and small businesses growth, and the jobs they provide, to local economies currently thriving in places such as Old Kent Road.