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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Centralise non selling elements of the operation with the rest of the Group. For starters Finance, Marketing and HR.
- Reestablish the Brand with the unique proposition as the only quality premium crystal brand still made in the UK and Ireland.
- Have a clear marketing strategy which focuses on the aspiration and international renown of the brand.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.