Portmeirion lifted by royal demand

Updated: 
PortmeirionThe maker of Spode ceramics has said its UK factory has "never been busier" after a record year fuelled by the royal wedding and Diamond Jubilee.

Portmeirion, which also owns the Royal Worcester and Pimpernel brands, said the wedding added about one percentage point to sales but that it expects to do even better this year through products celebrating the Queen's 60-year reign.

Production volumes were up by 18% last year, helping revenues lift 4.6% to £53.6 million and profits by 20.6% to £6.3 million.

Jubilee products such as commemorative Royal Worcester cups and saucers gilded in 22 carat gold mean its Stoke-on-Trent factory has "never been busier", although it also sources items from the Far East. The company increased its headcount by 47 to 579 last year - mainly at Stoke - in a rare reversal in fortunes for the once powerhouse industry.

While the UK's ceramics industry has been in long-term decline, Portmeirion has proved a success story, helped by strong demand from overseas where it makes three-quarters of its sales. It took a big step forward in 2009 when it bought the Spode and Royal Worcester brands out of administration.

Chairman Dick Steele said: "I think the commemorative ranges will do even better than those for the royal wedding and will export to the Commonwealth and other areas as well."

The group, whose wares can be found in John Lewis and House of Fraser, said sales have started more slowly in 2012 as its fifth biggest market - Italy - suffers amid austerity cuts.

But it remains confident for the full year and said sales are normally at their peak towards the end of the year. It is then that its US market, which accounts for 40% of its sales, sees strong demand ahead of Thanksgiving and Christmas, with the Spode Christmas Tree range a traditional favourite.

The group, which exports to 60 countries, is also setting up a new warehouse in China to help boost sales to the Asia Pacific region.

UK sales rose 9.6%, helped by strong demand for ranges made for the royal wedding, which included fine bone china items finished in 22-carat gold and selling for up to £400 a piece. Sales in South Korea increased by nearly as much.

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