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Rural dependency

Economic Development and Reform
16 December 2012

Harris TweedIn the summer, Upper Quartile undertook an economic and market assessment of the Harris Tweed industry in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.  There are clear and transferrable lessons between the work we do in Scotland and the international work we do with rural, highly dependent communities producing single products which increasingly are being required to integrate into a global market place.


Harris Tweed is a unique industry with global recognition in the international textiles market, yet rooted in a community-based traditional society. It combines specialist craft home weaving with mill operations and global marketing.  The industry makes a valuable contribution to employment, incomes and community viability in the Western Isles of Scotland.


The industry’s importance to this highly rural region has increased considerably over the past three years.  Output of Harris Tweed is currently at its highest for 14 years, and employment in the sector is 77% up on 2009 levels.


The industry’s product has performed strongly in the market over the last two years, and there is further opportunity for growth in UK and overseas markets, and across the apparel, interiors and accessories sub-sectors.


The markets for high quality interior fabric and apparel exhibit similar characteristics regardless of product segment or geography, and customer choice and demand is driven increasingly by product values, provenance and traditional craft skills.  Harris Tweed is well placed to capitalise on these critical market trends.


The global textiles market is forecast to grow to a total value of £998 billion by 2015, representing an increase of 33% on the market size in 2010.  Geographically, the Asia-Pacific region accounts for 59% of the global textiles market, and it is anticipated that further growth up to 2015 will be primarily in the Asia-Pacific market.


There are clear and transferrable lessons from the work we do in Scotland to the international work we do with rural communities, highly dependent on a single product increasingly being required to integrate traditional niche producers into a global market place.


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