By Mark Chilton

The business

Times Square has been in the heartland of the ceramics industry in Stoke-on-Trent since the 1880s, growing out of the copper engraving tradition and specialising in the distinctive willow pattern print.

With an enviable heritage and export markets across all five continents, Times Square is globally renowned for its ceramic printing for events such as the Royal wedding and the Diamond Jubilee merchandise.

Times Square specialises in designing and printing fine china plates providing unique and bespoke product for the premium end of the market in the UK and abroad. Times Square also has a fine art printing capability providing the highest quality prints, often signed by the artist, which is an area the business is planning to grow.

The challenge

The ceramics industry faced real challenges from the growing tiger economies around the turn of the millennium and when Wedgewood went out of business, Times Square was hit by the closure as they relied on the trade from a number of large customers.

The loss of business meant the workforce of 45 was reduced to 27, and in order to keeps the business going those staff were reduced to a three day week. In 2003 the business went into administration.

The solution

Mark Chilton bought the company in 2004, returning to his family roots in the Potteries, and decided that the future of the business lay in targeting the higher end of the market.

By taking on an invoice discounting facility with Bibby Financial Services to support cash flow the business has been able to invest in new equipment and re-build the company which has now increased its workforce to more than 30, full time staff.

As an official supplier of Royal Wedding and Diamond Jubilee merchandise, the company has seen a return to growth with an annual turnover of £2.5million.

Mark says: “We made the decision to change the direction of the company which ensured its future.

“With an invoice discounting facility in place from Bibby Financial Services we have been able to invest in new equipment and product development which has put us in a much stronger position for future growth.

“We have also been very pleased with the way Bibby Financial Services has supported us through a difficult period with a good level of communication and demonstration of their flexible approach.”

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