Made in Britain – a reputation that’s made to last

We explore the lure of products 'made in Britain' and why there is a current demand for products with British provenance.

Despite some uncertainty surrounding the direction of ‘Brand Britain’ in the fallout over Brexit, it would seem that ‘made in Britain’ and the perception of British craftsmanship still carry an awful lot of gravitas. This year the purchasing company, Beacon, recognised ‘made in Britain’ as the top food and drinks trend of 2018, a marketing lever which is still being regularly pulled by the likes of John Lewis and Boden.

Not just anecdotal patriotism

Research from several different sources shows that British manufacturing still carries a premium both in the UK and abroad, with a 2017 study by Attest into the attitudes of 2,000 British and American consumers finding that 3 in 4 people say a ‘made in Britain’ label would make them more likely to buy a product. The study also found that ‘quality’ is the association most likely to be associated with a ‘made in Britain’ label and that Americans are twice as likely as British consumers to associate ‘made in Britain’ with being stylish.

A separate international survey of 8,000 consumers by Barclays in December 2017 has found that behind quality at 42%, and reliability at 32%, the fact that British goods are internationally respected is a buying motivator for 31% of international consumers.

Brexit hasn’t damaged the brand

According to Attest, just over half of British consumers said Brexit hasn’t affected their perception of ‘made in Britain’ and 39% feel more positively. 60% of Americans feel ambivalent about the effect of Brexit on their attitudes to British-made, and 28% feel more positively.

Indeed as UK exports are booming on the devaluation of the Pound, research from Barclays found that a third of people globally are buying more British-made products than they were 5 years ago with consumers from China and India the most willing to pay a premium on British goods because of their perceived higher quality. International consumers are willing to pay 22% more for food labelled as British-made. Other industries in which consumers are willing to pay more for British-made include fashion, automotive and alcohol.

The Barclays research also found that nearly half of consumers aged 18-24 would be more likely to buy a product if it had a Union Jack included on it.

‘Made in Britain’ the top dining trend in 2018

At home, ‘made in Britain’ has also grown in importance in both restaurants and supermarkets, with local British produce being one of the most important factors that influence where consumers eat out for dinner. The research by Beacon has found that a quarter of consumers would pay as much as 25% more for food if it contained British produce, with some prepared to pay up to 50% more.

Made in Britain…sort of

While ‘made in Britain’ garners international respect because people associate British manufacturing with being the best, this is also a position which is open to abuse as some brands use loopholes in the system by importing the majority of their products and passing them off as being British simply because the final stage of the product process takes place in the UK. In order to ensure that the quality and authenticity associated with British manufacturing is not undermined, this is a grey area that needs to be addressed through tighter labelling schemes and legislation.

It’s coming home?

So what does this mean for the manufacturing industry? In January 2018, manufacturing output in the UK was expanding at its fastest rate since 2008 although this had started to slow by June, and manufacturing abroad still makes more economic sense for many business models owing to the cheaper cost of labour and manufacturing space. For example, the average manufacturing wage in China is around £140 a week compared to £598 in the UK, and in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh clothing workers are typically paid £2-4 per day. However there is increasingly a business case for reshoring British manufacturing:

Shipping releases a billion tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere each year, which equates to more than three times the UK’s total emissions, and this figure could rise to 17% of total world emissions by 2050

⦁ Many people are now avoiding products that have been shipped in from the other side of the world

⦁ Manufacturing in the UK saves on shipping costs, storage costs, picking and packaging which can offset the higher costs associated with manufacturing in the UK

⦁ Britain has a strong history in design and this is aided by government tax relief on research and development

⦁ Manufacturing in the UK helps to offset some Brexit costs that have been incurred as a result of the decline in the value of the Pound compared to other currencies

⦁ Importing components rather than assembled goods helps to lower the tariffs that are likely to be imposed on importing assembled goods

Staying afloat

These findings suggest that in the face of a global shift in politics, economics and even climate, the quality of British manufacturing continues to hold its own, having established a position as an epicentre for quality, reliability, innovation and design and this is a reputation the Brits are unlikely to give up without a fight.

Whilst we’ve completed projects in several continents across the globe, all our orangeries, conservatories and garden room extensions are manufactured by our expert craftsmen in the UK Westbury Joinery factory. If you’d like to visit our showroom in London or take a tour of our factory in Essex, please contact us and we’d be delighted to arrange this for you.