Saturday, January 10, 2009

Wedgwood loses its competitive edge, goes under after 250 years

As Judith Flanders says in an interesting history of a sinking company:

The company is in trouble because it has long forgotten the lessons of one of its founders: Josiah Wedgwood, among the greatest and most innovative retailers the world has ever seen. If the modern operators of Wedgwood, which was merged with Waterford Glass in 1986, had shown a tenth of Josiah’s intuitive grasp, his flair, his zest for selling, it would not now be dying.

Today when most people think of Wedgwood, they think of bridal registries and those dusty-looking blue-and-white jasperware plates that no one knows what to do with. But things were once very different.

Josiah was an unlikely hero. He was the 13th child of an impoverished potter; a childhood case of smallpox left Josiah with a bad leg that was later amputated, making it impossible for him to turn a potter’s wheel. But if he could not physically throw a pot, he could — and did — find new ways to get goods to market. He threw himself into various schemes to improve roads and canals. And, more fundamentally, he developed new ways of selling. Most, if not all, of the common techniques in 20th-century sales — direct mail, money-back guarantees, traveling salesmen, self-service, free delivery, buy one get one free, illustrated catalogues — came from Josiah Wedgwood.
According to one listing, Wedgwood is one of the richest 200 people to ever live in Britain, and one of the very few of those to acquire his wealth by hard work and ingenuity.

Image: 1787 emancipation medallion produced by Wedgwood.

2 comments:

  1. all of a sudden, I am valuing the Jasperware dish in which I keep some trinkets just a bit more.

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  2. Michelle Richards, Director of PR, Wedgwood USA9:14 am

    We are happy to report that Waterford, Wedgwood and Royal Doulton are not going out of business. Waterford Wedgwood Plc, the parent organization of Waterford Wedgwood USA and Royal Doulton USA are currently working to restructure the business and have entered into a letter of intent with KPS Capital Partners LP, a New York-based private equity limited partnership. The US companies are not in bankruptcy and are operating as business as usual, in fact, 2009 is the 250th anniversary of Wedgwood and we have great events planned all throughout the year. Visit www.wedgwoodusa.com/250th to read more. In addition, use promo code WEDG250 to get free shipping on any order of $100 or more through 3/31/09.

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