There seems no sign that the exodus of volume pottery manufacturing from the UK is slowing. According to a recent press release by market research company Research and Markets, the total value of manufacturing sales of ceramics in the UK between 2002 and 2005 dropped by 32% – almost a third. At the same time, the total retail value of ceramics sold in the UK remained almost unchanged.
That extra third must have been produced somewhere, though, musn’t it?
Even the industry’s most famous names are experiencing problems at the moment – with both Wedgwood and Spode in the middle of job-cutting reorganisations aimed at helping them return to profitability. In addition, the past year has seen the failure of both Poole Pottery and Royal Stafford, as well as the offshoring of most PenDelfin production.
All of this leaves you wondering what the future will hold for the nation’s world-famous potteries. I firmly believe that the only possible answer lies in quality, originality and technical innovation – rehashing old designs and shapes and launching tawdry “celebrity-endorsed” ranges of tableware can only take companies so far. They have to do something to justify the higher costs of designing and manufacturing pottery in the UK – and true innovation seems the only answer.
On the other hand, perhaps the demand that used to exist at the top end of the market has simply passed – a victim of changing fashions and lifestyles. I don’t know – what do you think?