Thursday, December 7, 2023

Middle-class kitchen staple hit by post-pandemic slump

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The end of the pandemic-era home-cooking craze and the cost of living crisis have affected sales of Le Creuset pots and pans.

Sales of the French homeware brand’s goods in the UK slumped by nearly 20pc to £47.9m in 2022, newly filed company accounts show. Pre-tax profits dropped from £3.5m to just under £2m.

Nick Ryder, managing director of Le Creuset, said the company had enjoyed “substantial” growth during the pandemic when huge numbers of people became more interested in cooking from scratch.

But he wrote in the company’s accounts: “Now in the post-Covid world with changing spending patterns and a backdrop of increasing prices and interest rates, the market we operate in has seen a decrease in spend.”

Known for its high prices as much as its designs, Le Creuset products frequently cost more than £100. It is known for its cast iron oval casserole dishes, which can cost from £165 to £525 depending on the size.

Many are made in its signature “volcanic” orange, said to be inspired by the colour of molten iron in the foundry.

As well as softer sales, the company has faced increasing costs, which pushed down profits. In addition to soaring energy prices, the cost of freight rose by “as much as 10 times”, the company said in its global accounts

Le Creuset sells its products in 30 shops across Britain, as well as through retailers such as John Lewis and Harrods.

The cookware maker was founded in 1925 by a pair of Belgian industrialists, Armand Desaegher and Octave Aubecq, who created its first cast iron cocotte, which is a heatproof dish in which food can be cooked. The pair opened a factory in Fresnoy-le-Grand, in Northern France, where the company still manufactures to this day.

The company’s products were restyled by the French-American designer Raymond Loewy in the 1950s to bring them up to date with post-war tastes. Mr Loewy, who has been called the father of industrial design, was behind the logos for a number of huge companies such as Shell and BP, as well as the Coca-Cola bottle and Lucky Strike cigarette packets.

His distinctive designs for Le Creuset, and a reputation for the long lifespan of its pans.  made the cookware a favourite of the middle classes.

Le Creuset is not the only staple of middle-class kitchens that has lost sales since the pandemic. Aga Rangemaster saw its sales drop by £10m to £144m in 2022, citing “demand headwinds” as soaring energy costs made the cost of operating an Aga dearer.

Globally, operating profits for Le Creuset dropped 27.7pc to £134.4m in 2022.

Le Creuset was approached for comment.

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