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Deckchair maker's life beyond the beach

Friday, August 08, 2014 - 02:30

Soaring summer temperatures are helping swell orders for Britain's only deckchair manufacturer. But as demand from its traditional market on UK beaches declines, Southsea Deckchairs is branching out into fashion and export. Hayley Platt went to Portsmouth for a closer look.

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At one time a beach like this on Britain's south coast would have been packed with deckchairs. Stephen Davies knows, he used to work as a deckchair attendant in Portsmouth. But times have changed. Stephen now owns the last remaining deckchair manufacturer in the UK. And even though the seaside trade isn't what it used to be, business is booming thanks to new customers - all keen to own a slice of a great British icon. SOUNDBITE: Stephen Davies, found of Southsea Deckchairs, saying (English): "Things move on. That's how it used to be but as a company we've adapted to that gradually over the years and as one market declines news ones have sprung up. I think it's just a question of identifying and finding out what they are." Stephen started Southsea Deckchairs in the early 80's. Back then there were just four patterns to choose from. And they turned out 100 chairs a year. Today there are over 200 different designs. And they produce more than 10,000 chairs. A sunny summer has helped boost sales. So does an online presence. But the real transformation has come from collaborations with some of the UK's best-loved brands. Fred Perry, Clarks shoes and London department store Liberty have all worked with Southsea. Turning some of the most iconic patterns into fashion favourites. SOUNDBITE: Stephen Davies, found of Southsea Deckchairs, saying (English): "That was about six months ago and since then we've had interest worldwide. Japan, we've got a meeting with a company in October, a Scandanavian customer is coming over in September. We've had a lot of interest in Germany, it's all been great." Southsea already exports to more than a dozen countries, including Sweden, Spain and Yemen. One South Korean firm ordered a whole container full. And they've even made it to the South Pole - where the British Antartic Survey team used them to chill out in their breaks. The beach business may have died off. But many, like Sue and Roy Checker still have fond memories. SOUNDBITE: Roy Checker, Southsea resident, saying (English): "I can remember years ago when I first came to Southsea as a small boy that the prom was lined with deckchairs." SOUNDBITE: Sue Checker, Southsea resident, saying (English): "It is a shame, but I can understand why they've disappeared because it's so easy to come to the beach with a fold-up chair." You're now just as likely to see classic deckchairs in Britain's parks. With plenty of orders coming in through the website and the export business taking off, Stephen won't have much time for lounging around.

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Deckchair maker's life beyond the beach

Friday, August 08, 2014 - 02:30