Jobs fear after Leicestershire sock firm loses £5m armed forces contract
A Leicestershire firm which has supplied socks to the British armed forces for decades has lost the contract, putting jobs at risk.
HJ Hall, of Hinckley, says redundancies are " inevitable" after the £5 million order was lost.
The Ministry of Defence contract has instead handed to a Northern Ireland firm, which manufactures its socks in China.
It will supply 2.5 million pairs of socks over four years.
The 128-year-old county firm had shared the contract to provide socks for the Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy for 80 years with another British business.
Ministry of Defence officials said Cooneen Watts & Stone, of County Tyrone, offered better value for money, but HJ bosses said it was wrong servicemen and women were getting the "cheapest" option.
Anton Jenkins, HJ's sales and marketing director, said: "I don't think it's right that men who are out there defending the country in all weathers should be wearing the cheapest socks the MoD can get.
"With the greatest respect to the other company, we have been making socks for 120 years and have people who have been here for 40 years. That is what you are paying for.
"Our socks are primarily made in the UK, but these socks will be made in China."
No-one from Cooneen was available to comment last night.
The business was founded in 2004 as a joint venture between two businesses.
Speaking about the redundancies, Mr Jenkins said: "Job losses are inevitable, whether it's voluntary or any other method, I don't know at this stage.
"I also don't know how many jobs will be affected at this stage."
He said the company employed 75 people at its Coventry Road factory.
Mr Jenkins, who said the MoD contract accounted for a third of turnover, said sales to high street stores, such as John Lewis and Debenhams, were up about 5% on last year, which would help to offset the impact of losing the contract.
"Sales on the retail side are starting to grow again, so things may not be as bad as we first thought," he said.
The company has looked to boost sales in recent years by launching socks in association with Dragons' Den entrepreneur Peter Jones and adventurer Ben Fogle.
An MoD spokesman said: "Following an open tender process, a new contract to provide socks was awarded to Cooneen Watts & Stone, who offered the best value for money to meet our requirements.
"We would like to thank HJ Hall for the contribution they have made."