By in An Independent Retailers Twitterings

Saving and Rebuilding Waterford Crystal

As we now know KPS an American private equity group has bought the intellectual property rights of Waterford crystal. At first this did not include the manufacturing plant at Waterford. We now understand that a partial agreement with the Unite Union, who represent the employees ,will see some workers retained at the factory although on the face of it seems more as a tourist attraction than a serious attempt at producing quality crystal.

We fully understand that global markets, cost structures and budgets mean an ever changing market place where manufacturers have to look at the price they can bring a product to the consumer. This means increased outsourcing to countries where labour is relatively cheaper. Providing the quality meets the expectation and aspiration of the Brand then it works.

What is being missed by the new owners is that Waterford Crystal is different. I do not suspect that there is a home in Ireland that does not either proudly own or aspire to owning a piece of Waterford Crystal. The loyalty to the Brand is like no other in the China and Glass Industry and spreads to the ex pat. community through out the world not least the USA. It is also the easy gift solution for anyone buying a gift for someone who is Irish.

The thing that they all want to know and is vitally important to them ” Is it made in Ireland”

For what it is worth here are an Independent UK retailers ideas on how to save and rebuild the brand.

  1. Reduce the number of SKU’s ( Stock Lines). With the help of retailers and Waterford’s own sales team the range can be condensed to a manageable assortment where forecasting, production planning and outsourcing will become more accurate and efficient.
  2. Continue to make iconic and traditional product like Colleen Glasses, Lismore Glasses and some Waterford Crystal Gitware ranges in the Waterford factory in Ireland. John Rocha Glass should be included too because of the designers deep association with Ireland. Contemporary Wine suites like Siren Wine Glasses should also be considered.
  3. Outsource product in high quality factories under the Waterford brand licence. Product like Jasper Conran Glasses and Giftware that is just not economical to make in Ireland.
  4. Centralise non selling elements of the operation with the rest of the Group. For starters Finance, Marketing and HR.
  5. Reestablish the Brand with the unique proposition as the only quality premium crystal brand still made in the UK and Ireland.
  6. Have a clear marketing strategy which focuses on the aspiration and international renown of the brand.
  7. Package all product not least the Drinking Glasses in boxing that reflects the brand. Currently they come in grubby industrial cartons which hardly gives the right impression. Think Tiffany and Links of London they will show you how to market product aspirationally.
  8. Before launching and investing heavily in new product counsel opinion to make an informed judgement. Ask the workers and create retailer forums you are more likely to get an honest view from them. Research consultants  will ask a sample of uninitiated and more importantly uncommitted people which will not give the actual picture.
  9. Decide quickly what to do with the Stuart Crystal and Edinburgh Crystal brands. Stuart sadly has not received any love and attention and should be sold. Edinburgh is more difficult. Like Waterford the prestige patterns like Star of Edinburgh glasses and Thistle glasses have a country of origin issue, although not half as bad. I think in an ideal situation you would try to make these two patterns in Ireland and continue to outsource the rest. You could have the blanks outsourced and find a cutter in Scotland to finish the designs to retain the Hand Cut in Scotland message.
  10. We have many customers waiting for positive news on the future off all three brands. We need information now  so that we can keep both them and us interested.

Please feel free to add your own views as I feel it would be an absolute travesty if the Waterford brand were to disappear. I will post further information as soon as I receive further updates.

3 Comments

  1. I have been a collector and user of the all three brands for over thirty years now. A possible way to save these brands and products would be to limit the ranges of of any future designs and possibly phase out the traditional designs like Thistle and Star of Edinburgh to name a few. Concentrate on one or two new designs with a wider range of products being introduced over a number of years to whet the appertite of users and collectors like myself. Sadly if we keep clinging to the favorites then the younger generations to come will get bored of what they see in their Mum’s and Dad’s display cabinets and just forget about buying anymore of the known items. Whilst costs are crucial in this day and age fine hand crafted crystal at a premium is what good craftmanship is all about. Like all good strategic financial decisions when demand slows down so should production and the craftsman should still be retained with shorter working days – in this type of industry the new generaation craftsman and old alike should be made aware of new working systems in order to preserve these industries.

    1. Alan, your points are very well made. Personally I would like to see the key best selling patterns of Waterford Colleen, Lismore and Edinburgh Star of Edinburgh and Thistle still hand crafted in Ireland or the UK. I agree with you that it is important to educate people on the importance of craftsmanship and to keep these skills going. Lets hope that the new owners recognise this too.

  2. 17th May 2009 1211

    The 10 pointers in the Independant Retailers twiterings are thorough and logical. My wife and I have just returned to Newtownards in Northern Ireland after a 3 day break in Waterford. As we were staying down the road from the factory we paid a visit. What a shock to the system! We knew at one point staff had been put on a 3 day week, but we did not realise the administrators were now in charge and the factory was closed. No more manufacturing of Waterford crystal as we knew it. No more tours to let tourists see the crystal during the different stages of production, ( now you sit on a seat in the lobby and watch a video presentaton – nothing on seeing it up and close).
    The only “true” Waterford crystal left is what is on show in the factory shop and their current stock. Once sold that is it. The American private equity group KPS only bought the “Waterford” name, none of the old patterns ie Colleen Lismore etc. Any manufacturing is now outsourced to Germany, China or even USA. There is a Lismore perfume bottle for sale at the factory shop, which my wife purchased along with a salt & pepper set. Both of these whilst bearing the Waterford name are actually moulds rather than blown crystal and then cut with the pattern which in its self is not as sharp and defined as the original hand blown patterns were.

    The factory shop’s lease runs out in September 2009. after this staff have no inkling of what the future holds. Will there still be a factory shop. A statement by the CEO of KPS in April 09 stated he looked forward to the production of Waterford crystal, dispite liablilites of €800/$1million. However he was not definitive of the production being on the original site.
    One other important point of information that is not generally known by the public is that all staff at Waterford crystal LOST their pensions. Many staff had over 3oyears with the factory. The Irish government washed their hands off this and let it happen. The local paper printed in Waterford on Wednesday 13th May had an article stating the European Parliament was looking at taking the Irish government to court for failing to protect Waterford workers pensions rights. I hope they succeed.