Historic English tableware company Royal Worcester & Spode has today gone into administration.
Matthew Hammond, Rob Hunt and Mike Jervis of PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP have been appointed joint administrators.
"The company has been undertaking a restructuring of its business in recent years," Hammond said in a statement. "This has included reductions in overhead, transition to more cost-effective outsourcing of production, relocation of warehousing, new product development and the sale of property to reduce debt.
"However, the inability to complete the proposed sale of a site of strategic importance in Stoke and the effect of the current economic downturn on sales has led to the decision by the directors of Royal Worcester & Spode Ltd to place the company into administration.
"Our immediate priority now is to review all options for the company and immediately seek a buyer for the business," he went on. "During this process we will work with the company's suppliers, employees and customers to try and ensure that a solution is found to provide a structure to take the business forward.
"We are working with all stakeholders and will be continuing to use the company's extensive retail network and store concessions to supply customers with the full range of products which are in good supply."
The latest accounts, for the calendar year 2007, show sales down 12.4% at £33.66m. The company recorded an operating profit of £1.32m - its first operating profit for several years - but interest payments converted this to a pre-tax loss of £6.34m. This was despite slashing the workforce from 901 in 2005 to 514 just two years later, as well as reducing stocks from £15.4m to £11.9m.
The company sources, manufactures and sells earthenware and china products from three operational sites in the UK and one in North America. The main UK trading subsidiary is The Porcelain and Fine China Companies Ltd, which is also now in administration.
The US trading subsidiary is The Royal China and Porcelain Companies Inc, which remains outside the formal administration regime.
The administrators say that the UK will continue to work with the US management team, who remain autonomous.
The company operates from two freehold premises in Stoke and Worcester, two leasehold units at Lymedale and employs 388 people in the UK.
The Royal Worcester brand is tied in with TV chef Jamie Oliver on ranges of oven-to-tableware and cutlery, and with interior design celebrity Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen on tableware.
In October this year the company denied reports that it had appointed accountancy firm KPMG to find it a rescue buyer.