It’s mid-November and the count-down to Christmas is well under-way as shops across the country bid to sell their wares. But consumers are not as easily seduced by a festive offer and a dazzle of tinsel as they once were when it comes to shopping for their Christmas gifts. In today’s world, they wish to know where something has come from, who it was made by and why it is worth their hard-earned cash.
In the past couple of years, this more discerning consumer has given rise to a number of new businesses, which have set themselves up in opposition to the mass-consumerism of the high street by offering goods which are strictly British in their provenance.
“What started with ‘food miles’ is rippling out into other product categories with people now willing to pay a fair price for good quality products, which have been ethically produced and made to last,” says Nicky Sherwood, who launched FromBritainWithLove.com earlier this year as a way of showcasing British-made products.
“People are fed up with the throwaway consumerism of the past and would rather buy distinctive original gifts that will last and even be passed on to future generations,” she says. “By buying British made products, you’re helping to support local businesses, nurture home-grown talent and reduce your impact on the environment. But perhaps most importantly, you’ll avoid the ‘sameness’ of mass-produced products and instead give a gift which has been made with love, care and attention – something which is sure to delight the recipient.”
With online market places such as FromBritainWithLove.com, Folksy.com and NotOnTheHighStreet.com, it is easier than ever before to find and buy directly from small or local British producers, designers and craftspeople, who, with their small marketing budgets, have, in the past, found it hard to get noticed in the marketplace.
At mydeco.com, the Boutique is set up for this express purpose and each month takes on new designers, which have been hand-picked from the UK’s craft and design fairs and design schools. This year, visitors to the site can find a dedicated Christmas Collection featuring 25 specially selected designers, which, the site hopes, will give visitors inspiration for unique, original British gifts from designers such as Bluebellgray, Roddy & Ginger, DesignBark or Papa Stour, to name a few.
While consumers increasingly place value on the provenance of their goods and the level of craftsmanship and skill, for many businesses it is more practical and financially viable to keep production in the UK. “With labour costs in China currently growing at around 30%, our decision to manufacture in Britain continues to be the right one,” says Emma Bridgewater, whose renowned pottery has been made in the UK for the last 25 years.
It no longer adds up to outsource, agrees Jim Watson, who launched his luxury British lifestyle goods business, Appleby Parva in the UK earlier this year. “At an economic level, many companies in the past outsourced and were bitten by it. The physical distance, lead times, cultural and language barriers are often hard to overcome, so they have shifted production back to the UK. Meanwhile, as Asian countries develop rapidly, their labour and production costs are rising fast too. Exchange rate movements also mean that UK production is increasingly competitive.”
These days, supporting British producers makes sense. It makes sense to the consumer who places more value on provenance, quality and longevity, and has better access to British-made goods; it makes sense to retailers, who can run a tighter business in the UK at an increasingly competitive cost; it certainly makes sense to those local producers and makers, who are creating something original and unique. This Christmas, if you find yourself being tempted by a cheap, foreign import, have the good sense to think twice. Someone’s Christmas gift will be all the better for it.