Stoke kilns fired up for Spode again
PRODUCTION of world-famous pottery could return to North Staffordshire from abroad after Portmeirion bought out china brand Spode.
Portmeirion revealed yesterday it had paid £3.2 million for the right to make products under the names of Spode and sister company Royal Worcester.
Administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) had been summoned to help the two troubled, but prestigious, names in November.
Now Portmeirion, which employs about 400 people at its plant in London Road, Stoke, says the deal will bring in an extra £7 million this year and an extra £12 million in the year after that.
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Directors say that will safeguard jobs in the town, and some production could return to the Potteries after being transferred overseas by Royal Worcester and Spode.
Portmeirion chairman Dick Steele said: "At the moment it's made abroad and in the short-term it will continue to be made abroad.
"In the medium to long-term we can make it where we want.
"We have capacity in our own fantastic factory in Stoke, for example.
"There are no promises, but we will definitely look at that possibility. We'd be absolutely daft not to.
"I would like to think our employees feel fairly comfortable anyway, but it secures design jobs, administration jobs, sales jobs, warehousing jobs and so on; and these are all in Stoke."
The deal included Spode and Royal Worcester stock held in the U.S. and this is expected to bring in about £1 million.
Mr Steele added: "I cannot tell you how excited I am about this acquisition.
"For years we have been around the £30 million to £35 million turnover mark.
"To be able to buy brands which last year produced more turnover than our entire business is just incredible. It's really going to help us."
The future of staff at Spode's Newcastle warehouse and its historic Church Street complex remains unclear, as do plans for a site earmarked as a key part of regeneration plans for Stoke town.
Seventeen people work in the warehouse, another 15 work in the Stoke shop and there are 11 Stoke-based office employees.
In the mid-1990s, Spode employed more than 400 in the town.
A spokesman for PWC said: "The primary asset is the stock in the UK, which we are still selling through the retail outlets.
"Once the stock is sold we will look at the options for those retail positions.
"We are still considering the options for the properties."
When Spode called in the administrators, it put more than 240 years of manufacturing history at risk.
Pam Wooliscroft, pictured, Spode's former museum trust curator and an expert on the firm's heritage, welcomed the Portmeirion deal.
She said: "It's important that the brand has remained in Stoke.
"For Portmeirion it will be good to be associated with another name that is well-known and well-established.
It's quite exciting."