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Do consumers want to buy more British-made products?

There’s a growing demand to buy British, but consumers don’t know where to find British-made products, according to new research. Our guest author and founder of campaign group Make it British explains more… 

Between January and April this year, we asked over 1,000 people if they would be willing to pay more for British-made products compared to buying a similar product made outside the UK. The response was staggering.

Just over 90% of shoppers said they would be willing to pay more for British-made goods. This study, the biggest of its kind, shows that there’s a growing desire among Brits to buy locally – fuelled, perhaps, by the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Our research revealed that since Brexit, half of all shoppers are trying to buy more British-made products. And that people think products made in the UK are better quality and worth paying more for: 77% said that if they knew a product was made in Britain, they would believe it to be of good quality.

Brand Britannia

British-made stands for quality and shoppers are willing to pay more for a product they can trust. But it’s often impossible for them to find out if a product is made in Britain. It’s often easier with food, where Red Tractor and British meat labeling helps customers understand where a product has come from. But the same isn’t true for other products, such as clothes.

Brands could play a more active role in effectively marketing their products as British. Information needs to be clear, visible and easily accessible, both in store and online. Shoppers have the option to filter online by attributes such as price, brand or colour. Similarly, retailers should give e-commerce consumers the ability to filter for products made in Britain.

UK manufacturers could help themselves, too, by being more visible to consumers. Take Johnstons of Elgin, for example. It is one of the oldest textile manufacturers in the UK and has been making fine woollen cloth, knitwear and accessories in Scotland since 1797.

It has an open-door policy, which means that you can visit its factory to see where your jumper is being knitted. We could do with more UK manufacturers following Johnstons of Elgin’s lead.

Manufacturing is thriving

Many people are unaware that Britain still has a thriving manufacturing base. Last year, for example, over £2 billion worth of textiles was produced in the UK. And through setting up Make it British in 2011, I’ve met countless success stories.

Take Tiffany Rose. This British maternity wear brand was launched by mum-of-two, Tiffany London, in 2003, and has just won the Queen’s Award for International Trade for the second time in five years.

From humble beginnings – a kitchen table in Tiffany’s south London apartment and access to just £600 on a credit card – the business now turns over £3.1m and operates from its head office in Surrey. From here, orders are shipped to 120 countries and over 100 boutiques.

And on 23 and 24 May, our Make It British Live! trade show at the Truman Brewery, London will exclusively showcase over 200 British manufacturers and producers such asTiffany Rose. British producers are thriving – but more can and should be done to support them.

Would you pay more for British made goods (vote in our poll below)? Does ‘made in Britain’ signify quality? And does Brexit encourage you to buy British?

This is a guest article by Kate Hills. All views expressed here are Kate’s own and not necessarily also shared by Which?

Would you pay a bit more for a product if it were made in Britain?

Yes (83%, 44 Votes)

No (17%, 9 Votes)

Total Voters: 53

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I would like Which? to include the country of origin of every manufactured product included in the tests and surveys. A few online retailers do this: Electrocomponents (also trading as RS Components), and Wayfair are two that I know of, but most retailers do not. Almost all manufactured things declare the country of manufacture somewhere on them or the packaging.

Where something was made does not necessarily relate to its quality, or whether it is rated a Best Buy, but I wish that Which? would include the information in their reviews. Some people might have personal preferences for buying things made in one country rather than another. Preferences that might be based on ethics, religion, family connections, economics, environmental or exploitation issues or other considerations. These people deserve to be given this information along with the results of impartial testing and evaluation.

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I agree, oldmarty. Whilst I would not buy something solely on the basis it was UK made, it would be a consideration together with other factors. duncan is right about globalisation – so many components of products come from far away places. However, when the final assembly, at least, takes place in the UK by a UK company then I feel more able to approach them if, say, a problem arises.

I believe for this country to thrive, part of its earnings must come from exporting goods, and that requires a revival of UK manufacturing in sectors where we can make an impact, and where we can also feed a home market and reduce imports.

I particularly want to see food that is totally UK produced labelled accordingly. I’d buy that (from a reputable store).

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Thanks duncan. I, being naive, did not really know what a “far right radical” was so had to look it up. I came across this.
I am a little nervous about this sort of stuff.
Is it balanced by https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radical_left ?

We have some pretty firm and constructive views expressed in Convos – should we belong to a far sighted radical group?

The difficulties of knowing ultimate origins of the multitude of components that are assembled into cars or other complex machines has been discussed last year, and I acknowledge this. My good dslr camera is marked “Assembled in Philippines”, but its components doubtless come from several other countries.

I was thinking more of simple manufactured objects with minimal assembly. A while ago I needed a new paring knife. At John Lewis I found one for about 8 pounds, but was upset that it was made in China, when Britain once had a first class cutlery industry. After asking, I was shown a similar one, made in Sheffield. I bought it even though it cost almost twice as much.

W H Smith sell a range of domestic/office scissors. I looked at a display of about 12 different ones a while ago and found that each one, without exception, was made in China. It is our fault that this happens, if we buy only on price. Retailers will only stock things that sell in bulk, and if British shoppers won’t buy Sheffield-made scissors, etc, then retailers cannot be expected to stock them. Some people have to buy the cheapest. For those of us who can afford a bit more, I for one would prefer British or European made things.

I was annoyed to notice that some very attractive Arts & Crafts design pottery mugs, sold as souveniers by the Victoria & Albert Museum, were made for them in China! You would think that the V&A would commission a pottery in ‘the five towns’ to make British-style gift items.

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Oldmarty – I would also be keen.to know the country of origin of products reviewed by Which? That may be easy for small items such as many of the products sold by RS Components but when I bought an Osram LED lamp from B&Q I could choose between ones made in Italy, China and a third company (I can’t remember which). Maybe that’s an unusual example.

With larger items such as a TV, washing machine or car, the best that could easily be achieved might be to identify where the product was assembled. Computers are a good example of products that can be assembled from components produced by different companies, depending on availability and cost.

I’m sure that many Which? members would pay heed to the country of origin providing the information is reliable.

We’ve recently endured the failure of several expensive devices within a very short time frame. A top range Yamaha Clavinova, a W? best buy Samsung Freezer, a 55″ 3D Samsung TV, a 32″ Samsung 5K display and a Swann security camera. They were purchased at varying times, between a few months and five years ago and all were covered by extended warranties, which we get as part of our banking.

Here’s the thing: if they want to sell you a new product, it can often be delivered the next day or within 48 hours. But a repair, touted as giving you ‘peace of mind’ will inevitably take between two weeks and a month.

Perhaps something Which? should be doing is exerting pressure on manufacturers to offer warranties with specific performance times built in. So if they can offer a new product within 48 hours they should have to agree to either repair or replace the product within the same time frame. Then perhaps – just perhaps – their warranties might be worth the paper they’re printed on.

Voltage spikes on the mains supply can be responsible for failure of electronic goods. If you have had simultaneous failure of two or more products, that would be very good evidence of this problem. Surge protection devices are now readily available for consumer units and I have read suggestions that insurance companies may in future require that one of these devices is fitted. I can see why you are fed-up with Samsung, Ian.

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I use UIPS and have a mains filter. What we’re considering is a Tesla Power Wall. Outages here,although less common than before, can be lengthy.

The 18th edition of the wiring regulations covers surge protection devices and consumer units containing them are now widely available. I presume it is possible (for an electrician) to add an SPD to an existing consumer unit, but only if space permits.

My family live in a small village in the highlands and they used to have problems with low energy lighting failing, suggesting that they had a dirty mains supply. It’s commonplace to use local surge protection devices for computer equipment, often as trailing sockets containing a small metal oxide varistor. I’ve read that these can become ineffective if they have had to do their job.

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North Wales has enjoyed small scale hydro electric power for over a century.

Here’s one example:-https://geotopoi.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/croesor-power-station/

in 1870, Armstrong installed a dynamo creating the world’s first domestic hydroelectric plant. Electricity from this plant was used to power Cragside and the many farm buildings on the estate.“.

Have any here the means to follow Armstrong’s example? My estate is too flat.

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Hydro-electric power is just an adaptation of water mill technology that goes back millennia.

Even tidal power has ancient antecedents [Bow and Woodbridge to name but two extant examples].

Getting back to the question of identifying the country of origin raised by oldmarty, ‘globalisation’ is offered as a prediction that it will become difficult or impossible to identify the source of consumer products in the future. But ‘globalisation’ is not a law, it is an economic development. Responsible manufacturers will continue to mark their goods with the country of origin because consumers will continue to look for that information.

There is a complexity with multi-component products like most household appliances that are assembled in one country but made of parts produced in the manufacturer’s factories elsewhere or bought in from other manufacturers. But as Malcolm has suggested, the company that puts it in a box and puts it on the market must take overall responsibility for the entire product. I shall continue to look for UK-made products or the next best thing.

Believe it or not there do seem to be UK-made products in most household categories. They might take some searching out, or might be more expensive than the alternatives, and they might not perform so well or be less reliable, but there is the choice and people can make their decision with the help of Which?’s and others’ product testing and reporting.

For many products, South Korea has been a good manufacturing place for some time now and we have had very good experiences with Samsung and LG products in our home. It would be foolhardy to select UK-made goods in all circumstances, equally it would not be sensible to rule it out. So long as we have the information we can make the choice and I suspect that consumer power and resources like Which? will ensure that, notwithstanding ‘globalisation’, the country of origin [in terms of the final point of production or assembly] is declared on the majority of products – although not in the advertising.

Stephen Shaw says:
6 January 2020

Please Which, can you state the country of origin on your product reviews.. I do try to buy British where ever possible supporting our own country and keeping jobs and expertise at home… I try to avoid ex British products from companies that relocated the the EU under their grants and loan schemes.. Buying local also helps with our carbon footprint, most of our meat comes locally, we allays try to check the country of origin on other products but often its not clear… Goods need to be clearly marked with the country of origin, a union Jack should only be displayed if the product is British, right now not everything is clearly marked and there is a lot of confusion…..

Brendan Skelton says:
13 January 2021

I would have signed up to this wonderful resource, the first hurdle to my doing so was that payment is through Paypal. …. not a very British start. Try setting up an account with a British company! Whatever next!