There was a time, maybe you don’t remember it yourself, but Britain was once a manufacturing great. If you don’t remember it yourself, I am almost certain you will have heard about it. We were a giant, our tiny little nation punching way, way above its weight on the global manufacturing stage. Textiles, Engineering, the Railways and Steel and Iron works were just some of the areas we once led the world in. But little old Blighty wasn’t just handy in knocking stuff together, oh no, we owned the process from start to finish. We invented the stuff, designed it, then we made it and shipped it off to all corners of the Empire, probably on a British made ship!
Britain's industrial past
Look around today and its fair to say British manufacturing is not quite what it was. Sure there a still some great British names out there in the marketplace but was it made in Britain? Nope. It’s doubtful we even own the company any more, just think of Mini. Mini is a classic example of how things have changed for us; an iconic design, a worldwide best seller branded with the name BMC. Yes that’s right…BMC, the British Motor Corporation. Ever heard of it? No, me either. Sounds a lot like BMW though doesn’t it and I’m sure you have heard of them. BMW, the Berlin Motor Works, the German company who bought, now manufacture and sell Minis which remain worldwide best sellers.
An early BMC MiniThe Mini as we know it today
The Mini as we know it today
We were good, in fact we were great, and we know we still are but somewhere we lost our way. Whilst we were stood still sipping our tea and telling each other what clever chaps we were, the rest of the world caught up. Then they passed us. Then they left us for dead. The manufacturing landscape is now a vastly different one, what was once about skilled craftsman hand making products intended to last a lifetime, is now all about low cost tooling and labour. As the world has evolved and trade has globalised, it has become easier to have goods made in Beijing rather than Burnley!
China's economic growth
But are we really still any good at anything? Well, we have some of the best designers in the world, be it of cars or fashion. We have some of the cleverest minds in engineering and medicine, and we still know what it takes to make a beautiful, successful brand. I personally think we have still got it, in fact I am pretty certain we do, we just happen to be the ones playing catch up. So is Britain going to become a global manufacturing giant again? Well no, but as we accept, the world has changed and we are re-positioning. Britain will never compete with the Asian Tigers when it comes to low cost manufacturing, we can however win hands down when it comes to niche, bespoke and quality products. Is that what you look for in a product? Does it beat price? Maybe not every time but it counts for an awful lot. When it comes to an important purchase such as a piece of furniture, occasionally price needs to take a back seat to quality. This is what British manufacturing can do best. “Made In Britain” is a powerful slogan, especially now we have some national pride back. The Olympics can be thanked a great deal for that. The 2012 Games showed the world Britain is still capable of incredible things. From the creativity of the opening ceremony to the logistics that ran like clockwork and let’s not forget the incredible individual and team performances from the Best Of British athletes.
The incredible London 2012 Opening Ceremony
More and more at The Orchard we are coming across British manufacturers stating their products are “designed in England.” That’s great, at least it has our rubber stamp on it, our seal of approval, British thinking but manufactured elsewhere at a competitive price. What we really love however are those suppliers we come across who proudly state their goods are MADE IN ENGLAND or HANDMANDE IN BRITAIN. And there are more and more of them every buying season. Unique, bespoke, original designers and crafters. Artisans reviving traditional methods for the 21st century. Creatives taking iconic old British designs or ideas and upgrading them for modern life. Visionaries designing original products never before thought of let alone seen anywhere else in the world.
There is barely a German or a Frenchman who doesn’t drive a domestic made car, they have a huge amount of national pride and know that supporting their own manufacturing industry benefits the nation as a whole. That’s what we want to see a resurgence of on our shores. English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish folk buying products made in each of these great little countries.
Here at The Orchard we want to be part of that and we are proud to announce we have launched a Best Of British category over at www.theorchardhomeandgifts.com to showcase them. Remember those guys I mentioned who revive classic British icons for 21st century homes….say hello to Newgate Clocks, manufacturers of wonderfully designed wall clocks and mantel clocks. If it’s British luxury, beauty and quality…well that’s Ruby & Ed’s hallmark, designers of slippers and slipper boots to die for. How about those original artisans I referred to? Look no further than Coulson Macleod, the artists and designers behind some stunning typographic wall art. And what about one of those Great British institutions I mentioned….there are few more prestigious names in the gardening world than Royal Kew Botanical Gardens. Kew are behind our extensive collection of plant pots, garden planters, bowls and vases. Better still how about those still manufacturing the old fashioned way as its the best way? All hail the traditionalists over at Poppy Forge who produce iron weathervanes and garden planters to traditional methods. And in the spirit of leaving the best till last I give you The Orchard’s very own collections of handmade British furniture. Both our Old English Painted range and our Rustic collection are made in Britain to traditional methods by cabinet makers with a wealth of experience.
Oh yes, we’ve still got it and we are making a comeback!
Fly The Flag!