North Staffordshire is known throughout the world as a centre of pottery production, with many of the most celebrated manufacturers emerging from Stoke-on-Trent. However one of the most iconic of these firms, Wedgwood, has confirmed that it has sold part of its 281 acre estate in Barlaston to housing developers as a means of funding a redevelopment project of existing buildings on the site.
The land has been purchased by David Wilson Homes, which will soon submit planning permission for 200 homes close to the Wedgwood site. Proceeds from this sale, along with a financial contribution from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund, will go towards the £34 million redevelopment of Wedgwood’s operations.
Wedgwood intends to create a new manufacturing facility and company offices in order to keep up with a boom in consumer demand, which has been largely bolstered by the impact of the housing market recovery. The on-site Visitor Centre and Wedgwood Museum (pictured) will also be expanded and upgraded.
Executive vice president and chief financial officer of Waterford-Wedgwood-Royal Doulton (WWRD), Anthony Jones, confirmed that around 100 new jobs are expected to be created as a result of the extensive renovation programme, along with the safeguarding of more than 400 existing roles.
He said; “We are confident that this exciting new venture will result in significantly increased visitor numbers both to Wedgwood and to the region as a whole.
“This is a major step forward for our company and evidences our commitment to investing in a successful future built on our strong foundations here in The Potteries.”
This turnaround in fortune for Wedgwood has been welcomed, as it was only in January 2009 the firm was forced to enter administration as a result of falling sales. After being purchased by New York based private equity firm KPS, a change of strategy was implemented which saw manufacturing processes streamlined, paid for using a £93 million investment by the new owner.
Yet three years later, in January 2012, the Wedgwood Museum Trust was presented with a financial difficulty of its own after a High Court ruling claimed it was liable for the debt of overall company’s pension fund. Fortunately, a high profile campaign to save the museum led to the United Nations heritage committee stepping in to add the museum to its UK Memory of the World Register, thereby preventing the 10,000 piece ceramic collection from going under the hammer at auction.
Now that the economic crisis is over, and consumers are once more spending on luxury items, it seems that the future is brighter for Wedgwood and that this investment into growth will see the firm able to prosper once more.
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