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Pressure grows on Burberry as brand plans China move

LONDON - Pressure is growing on the quintessentially British fashion and accessories brand Burberry as it considers closing one of its UK factories to shift production to China.

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Prince Charles weighed into the debate at the weekend asking the government if there was anything he could to intervene, as Burberry plans to move production from its factory in the Rhondda Valley in Wales to China, where factory costs are much lower.

The move would mean the loss of 300 UK jobs in the town of Treorchy. Burberry has also been called upon by Welsh actor Ioan Gruffudd, the star of TV series 'Hornblower' and 'The Fantastic Four', not to close the factory.

His intervention could be potentially embarrassing for the brand because last year Gruffudd was chosen as one of the faces of Burberry, along with Rachel Weisz. He grew up near the factory in Treorchy in Aberdare.

Last week, Treorchy workers protested in London outside Burberry's flagship Regent and Bond Street stores.

Earlier this year, Weisz and Gruffudd appeared in a TV and print ad campaign, shot by Mario Testino, to promote its male fragrance Burberry London.

According to a report in the Sunday Times, Gruffudd has written to Angela Ahrendts, Burberry's chief executive, asking her to keep the plant going.

Leighton Andrews, a Welsh Assembly member for Rhondda who is leading in the fight to keep the plant open, said: "Burberry has been a very successful luxury British brand. It has been performing well and has successfully moved upmarket. But it has been able to do that because the Burberry brand communicates British glamour and British craftsmanship. If they take away the British craftsmanship, they risk losing the glamour too."

However, Gruffudd was late to the fight and had initially refused to back the workers, who are being supported by their union the GMB.

The Independent received a letter from Gruffudd's PR advisers earlier this month, saying it would be "inappropriate" for Gruffudd to comment on the dispute because he is contracted to Burberry.

The 150-year-old company has become a global success and is growing fast around the world, with new stores opening across the US and Europe, as well as targeting China and Asia. Burberry says it will open stores in cities ranging from Seville to Vienna, and Topanga, California.

Two weeks ago, shares in Burberry Group hit a record high, as sales climbed 10% in the third quarter after it unveiled an ambitious store rollout plan in the US and Europe and plans to bolster sales of its £800 quilted leather Manor handbags, which are beloved by the likes of Kate Moss, Victoria Beckham and Elizabeth Hurley who are all fans of the brand. The bag has been the must-have of the season.

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