One of the world’s premier luxury china and crystal makers, Waterford Wedgwood PLC, has filed for bankruptcy protection when they failed to successfully restructure or find a buyer for the company. The business advisory firm Deloitte was called in to administer the company. Waterford Wedgwood has nearly 8000 employees around the world, most of them in manufacturing facilities in Asia and Eastern Europe. The bankruptcy administrators promise to keep the business in operation until the company is sold.
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Waterford, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton, all of which are affected by the bankruptcy, are classic brands of fine china and crystal that have been around for two and a half centuries. Wedgwood began making pottery in England in 1759 and began making fine china about 100 years later. Waterford opened their first factory in Ireland in 1783 although problems in Ireland caused the business to fail in the 1850’s. The brand was brought back in 1947 by Miroslav Havel, a Czech immigrant. In 1986 Waterford acquired Wedgwood and began moving more and more operations to Asia and Eastern Europe in search of cheap labor. In 2005, they added Royal Doulton, the renown ceramics company, to their line up.
Like many companies, Waterford Wedgwood PLC found themselves taking on substantial debt to fund their expansion and acquisition efforts. Now, with today’s credit crunch and recession, which has blunted the demand for high end luxury goods, the company is facing considerable financial difficulty. The company failed to find a buyer while seeking a forbearance from its chief creditors and this led to the bankruptcy.
With the bankruptcy and the uncertainty of where the company will go in the future this creates an opportunity for Waterford, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton collectors, both from a buying and selling perspective. It is certain that patterns that aren’t selling well will be struck from the the product line. This should create a brisk used and ‘new old stock’ in these designs. If you’re needing a replacement piece of china or glassware you probably want to seek it out now to avoid price increases due to demand. If you’re selling, it may be a good time to cash in but there may be some advantage to holding if scarcity increases the demand for hard to find pieces.
At any rate, I hope that Waterford Wedgwood PLC is able to continue operations and find a suitable buyer. It would be a shame for us to lose one of the classic makers of fine china and crystal.