Recession bites deeper

THE recession is bringing to their knees some of the best known brand names in the UK. Latest to be endangered is the Waterford Wedgwood group, but companies catering for the top end of market have found credit crunch is not having an impact.

Graham Dines

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THE recession is bringing to their knees some of the best known brand names in the UK. Latest to be endangered is the Waterford Wedgwood group, but companies catering for the top end of market have found credit crunch is not having an impact.

Gordon Brown's government has already seen banks teetering to the edge of insolvency, Woolworths, MFI, Adams, and The Pier go out of business, and chains such as Zavvi struggling. They are now joined by Waterford Wedgewood, best known for Wedgwood pottery, Royal Doulton and Waterford crystal.

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Without wishing to sound pejorative, such items are unlikely to be found on the shelves where the rich and famous have their personal shoppers in tow, but would be more at home in Debenhams, the type of shop which attracts customers whose wallets and purses are taking a massive hit from the recession and unemployment worries.

The UK business of Waterford Wedgwood employs around 1,900 staff across retailing and manufacturing with a base in Barlaston, Stoke-on-Trent. The Irish arm has around 800 staff based in Waterford. Its demise would have a huge impact on the Potteries and south-east Ireland.

No such problems for luxury department store Liberty, whose iconic Regent Street shop yesterday said its Christmas sales were close to record levels as trading surpassed management hopes, thanks in part to foreign tourists taking advantage of the pound's weakness.

Liberty is part of Marylebone Warwick Balfour (MWB), the property firm which also owns the upmarket Malmaison and Hotel du Vin hotel chains. The company said trading at the hotels had been firm during 2008 with earnings and cashflow targets ahead of the previous year - 79% occupancy at an average room rate during the year of �115 a night.

As for Mr Brown, he's embarking on a regional tour this week to the North-West, the Midlands, Wales and the West Country - surprise, surprise, he's not coming anywhere near the East of England, not even Watford - visiting factories and talking to business leaders to try to convince them his Government knows what it's doing.

The cabinet is also due to meet in Liverpool later in the week to discuss the economic situation, with ministers then embarking on a charm offensive in a city where the Liberal Democrats have been making inroads into Labour's traditional support.

GORDON Brown's image as a dull, dour, humourless Scott has been enhanced by his assertion that his favourite food is a dish called rumbledethumps, which in English is bubble and squeak. Mixing cold cabbage and potato to produce a sort of greasy fry-up - bacon, turnips, spring onions, nutmeg and cheese can be added to spice up what is essentially peasant food - had appeal in the dining room of the Fife manse in which he was raised, but might have chefs at Downing Street and Chequers scratching their heads.

Other leading Scottish politicians contributed their favourite dishes to a charity fund-raising book. First minister Alex Salmond, opted for cullen skink, a soup made from smoked haddock, potatoes and onions, while Jim Murphy, the UK government's Scottish secretary, chose “hearty lentil broth.”