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I wrote a piece for the Sentinel back in April 2013 in response to Steelite being awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, and why this was ‘great news’ for the Potteries.
Within the article I suggested that: Regaining ceramics production from south eastern countries and the success of smaller manufacturers, who are also responding to the changing business environment and picking up the pieces and putting ceramics back on the map, proves there is still life in the pottery industry. Steelite have only gone and won the prestigious ‘Made in Britain’ award – which puts the spotlight on products, technologies and innovations primarily developed, designed, engineered and manufactured in the UK. So, Burleigh, Emma Bridgewater, Steelite, and also Portmeirion, have resiliently shown how investment in their potteries to increase efficiency whilst retaining traditional production methods, product and market innovation, a commitment to making their core products in the city is a clear route map for future growth.
And Steelite’s phenomenal worldwide success in the international hospitality ware market has been built on the back of its ‘Made in England, Made for Life’ campaign.
Indeed, the importance of the backstamp and country of origin marking has never been more highly valued which further calls into question the short-term profits focus of Aynsley’s owners.
It is widely reported that over a century ago, Arnold Bennett, the Hanley-born novelist and ‘Chronicler of the Potteries towns’, famously ‘turned over’ cups, saucers and plates to find out from the backstamp on the bottom which pottery company made it.
What must also be highlighted is they are all succeeding because of their marketing which unequivocally associates their products to the city’s ceramics heritage and contemporary design excellence.
For it seems that place of manufacture is a key purchase requirement for discerning ceramics customers.
Not only is this comment myopic in the extreme, it also suggests to me that the company does not fully understand its target consumers or the markets in which it operates.