UK

Royal wedding: A tonic for Britain's china makers

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Media captionSales of merchandise related to the Royal Wedding may net more than £26m in the UK

Britain's traditional china and pottery industries have struggled during the recent economic downturn. But the promise of a royal wedding has buoyed spirits, although it could just be a blip.

When Prince William and Kate Middleton announced their engagement back in November last year, it didn't just lift spirits at Royal Crown Derby - its saved skilled jobs.

Since then, the company and others like it, including Royal Worcester and Emma Bridgewater, say demand for limited edition commemoratives has been unexpectedly strong.

Workers at Royal Crown Derby's East Midlands base had had their hours cut back as hard times began to take a toll on Britain's traditional china and pottery industry.

But the interest generated by the royal wedding has meant they are now back to a five-day week - and there's a palpable sense of relief.

Lithographer Julie Towell, who has worked at the factory for more than 30 years, is grateful for the upturn in interest.

Temporary upturn?

"It's a tremendous relief because it went on for a long time and becomes very worrying. Also my own son is getting married early next year so obviously I want to help him."

After being on a four-day week for the past two years, Eddie Williamson says the increase in hours and the extra money at the end of the week is "just fantastic".

"[It's] much better. I have a small child and another one on the way, and its so much better. I am hoping that people will buy royal wedding items and hope that they will buy our other royal products as well. "

Three things have been driving interest according to the company's chief executive, Hugh Gibson: celebrity culture, interest from abroad and the ease of online ordering.

"Online sales are much more important than they were ever before" he says. "It's a general trend and affects royal wedding as much as many others. Countries like Japan, for example, have got extremely interested."

And Germany, France, Canada, the US and Australia have followed suit. Demand from within the UK has, according to the Ceramic Federation, been strong too.

With items priced between £50 and £590, Royal Crown Derby pieces don't come cheap. But demand for limited edition fine bone china is continuing to grow, according to the company.

Even so, can one big day - even if it is a royal one - save an industry that's been in decline for decades?

Mr Gibson remains cautiously optimistic.

"Obviously [it's] a temporary thing it itself as we'll stop selling royal weddings a few months after the event itself," says Mr Gibson

"What we are all waiting for is the end of recession and beginning of the recovery and there are signs, certainly in the overseas markets that recovery is starting, but not yet in the UK. When it does recover, those of us who have good quality British made products and who have survived the hard times will be in a good position to surge away with them."