Wedgwood (Stoke-on-Trent) is one of the manufacturers in the Potteries region now reporting a modest return to growth – after years of struggling to compete against cheap Asian imports. Some of the surviving companies developed clays that require less firing – thus reducing the potters’ energy bills – or worked with Ceram, a Stoke-based research organisation, to increase production efficiencies.
John Murray Brown reports in the Financial Times that data from the Office for National Statistics show that the sector was worth £430m in 2012, a rise of 20% on four years earlier – a number of the leading brands reporting record sales and expansion plans.
Portmeirion Potteries bought Spode and Royal Worcester out of administration in 2009, moved some of the production of its Spode Blue Italian range back from China and is employing about 400 people at its plant in Stoke.
Steelite of Stoke, the UK’s largest tableware manufacturer has acquired Royal Crown Derby, as part of a £12m investment programme embarked on last year with support from the government’s regional growth fund, which is providing £2m.
Last year Kevin Oakes, chief executive of Steelite, expressed concern about the dumping of below-cost product from China in the European market, which is currently the subject of an EU investigation, seeing a correlation between the jobs the industry has lost and the volume of Chinese imports.
West Midlands MEP Phillip Bennion, whose work in this sector was featured on this site last year, has continued to liaise with Kevin Oakes and other ceramics manufacturers. Earlier this month, he announced at the European Parliament in Strasbourg:
“It seems that after sustained lobbying, we have persuaded a majority of EU governments to back the Commission that we must confirm action to stop unfair competition in kitchen and tableware.
The Commission has yet to formally publish a proposal and Council then has to adopt it before the expiry on 15th May but the Council vote is expected to be a formality, approving the deal agreed in the anti-dumping committee.