Royal Doulton to cut 330 jobs

Royal Doulton, the fine china group which has been hit by the move away from formal dining, is cutting 330 jobs in an attempt to become more competitive and mitigate the effects of the strong pound.

All the redundancies will be in the Stoke-on-Trent region, where the company has been based for more than 200 years. Royal Doulton employs 4,800 people in the Potteries, mostly in manufacturing functions.

Most of the cuts will be in two of the group's nine Stoke plants, with some 270 cuts coming from production and the remainder in clerical and commercial divisions. Further job cuts have not been ruled out.

The strong pound has proved a particular problem for Doulton, which exports half of its pounds 250m sales to markets such as the US, Japan and Europe. The company said yesterday that currency factors had "resulted in a sales shortfall".

The job cuts are part of an operating review being undertaken by the new chief executive, Patrick Wenger. He took over in May following the sudden departure of Stuart Lyons, who had been chief executive for 12 years but was blamed for the pounds 1.6m costs of an abortive takeover.

Mr Wenger said yesterday: "Royal Doulton needs to be efficient and competitive to meet the changing demands of the world ceramic market. The strong pound has created a difficult world-wide trading climate for many manufacturers including ourselves and it is essential we aim to keep production, sales and stocks in balance."

Mr Wenger admitted Royal Doulton was "a labour-intensive organisation" with some parts of the business, such as the painting of miniature figures, done by hand.

Royal Doulton, which was demerged from the Pearson media group in 1993, has been badly affected by the trend away from formal dining. It has developed a mid-market Doulton Everyday range, though the City has been concerned it could cannibalise sales of the more upmarket bone china.

Royal Doulton shares closed 2.5p lower at 220p.