Refrigeration maker forced to downsize

A refrigeration plant in Sussex has confirmed it will have to downsize its business towards the end of this year after the loss of a major contract.

Polestar Cooling from Bognor Regis is based on a site that has been producing domestic and commercial refrigeration equipment for more than 60 years, although the business in its current guise only started trading 11 years ago.

However, staff at the 45-strong firm have been notified that between 10 and 20 redundancies will be made at the end of the year as it switches to a smaller factory in the local area.

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On its website, the company says it manufactures its own range of high quality undercounter and overcounter refrigerators for the catering market. It also produces bespoke refrigeration and marine refrigeration, but the majority of its business is believed to come from medical and laboratory refrigeration.

The company’s Widdowson Building HQ on Shripney Road is the last remaining presence of the Lec fridge and freezer company, once a huge employer in the area.

At its peak in the early 1980s it provided jobs for nearly 2,000 people. Lec, which became part of Glen Dimplex Home Appliances nine years ago, built its last fridges there in December 2004 before production was moved. Many of Polestar’s staff are ex-Lec employees.

Phil Polack, Polestar’s managing director, was away from the office today so could not be reached for comment on the situation, but earlier this week he told the Bognor Regis Observer that he was optimistic about the company’s future, even though it would operate on a smaller scale once the restructuring had taken place.

“It is with great regret that we will have to reduce our size,” he said. “But we’ve done well over the past decade and I see no reason why we can’t do the same again.”

He told the paper that the government’s decision to give a customer a multi-million grant to build a factory to make fridges rather than buy them from Polestar had caused it to lose the contract.

That is understood to be related to last month’s announcement that Glen Dimplex Home Appliances has been given £3m funding from Round 5 of the government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF) investment programme.

It will use the money to expand its domestic manufacturing facilities in Prescot, Merseyside, where it builds key cooker brand such as Stoves and Belling, as well as take the opportunity to develop medical refrigeration.

It should be pointed out that Polestar’s downsizing has no impact on catering refrigeration produced under the Lec Commercial brand. That business is managed by Glen Dimplex Professional Appliances, which has a separate OEM supply base.

GDPA told Catering Insight this afternoon that it did not wish to comment on a third party site, but stressed that the relocation did not affect its commercial catering refrigeration side.

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