Why China is fuelling demand for retro juke boxes made in Yorkshire

Yorkshire family business Sound Leisure has almost doubled the production of its hand-built jukeboxes since returning from lockdown after a successful launch in the Asia-Pacific region.

The firm, which has a 10-month waiting list for its products, has hired three people in the last few months and is ready to hire more to keep up with demand. It currently employs around 70 people in the UK, mainly based in Leeds.

Sound Leisure was set up by Alan Black in 1978 to sell jukeboxes to pubs and clubs.

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With the look and feel of a classic American diner juke box, sales grew quickly. By the mid-1980s, Mr Black was taking calls from Harrods and football teams and had started to expand abroad.

Chris Black, head of Sound Leisure, said that China is a growing market for the firm. Picture: Bruce Rollinson

Having found success in Europe and the US, since Brexit Sound Leisure has sought to find international trade opportunities further afield.

Alan’s son Chris Black, who is now managing director, said that roughly 15 per cent of sales now come from China and that proportion is growing rapidly, with sales surging during the run-up to Chinese New Year.

The machines are still entirely British-made, with electronics and amplification produced in Nottingham, metalwork in Yorkshire and Lancashire and chrome-plating in Coventry. The Leeds team makes the wooden cabinets and player mechanisms.

Mr Black said: “Chinese consumers are becoming more and more familiar with western culture through travel and tourism. This means there are serious opportunities for UK companies who want to tap into a huge potential market, with a rapidly growing middle-class.”

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