The Repatriation of UK Textiles Manufacture report by The Alliance Project Team was published yesterday. It is the most in depth study of the UK textile manufacturing industry for 20 years, detailing responses from 200 manufacturers and 16 retailers. The Alliance Project was established to examine the potential for repatriating textiles manufacturing to the UK and it has left us with no doubt that there is a demand from retailers for British products.
The report identifies there is a demand for British made textiles, both in apparel and homeware sectors, but in order to grow; buyers need to know where to find suppliers and technology and skilled, young labour needs investment.
The total production value of UK textiles is worth just under £9billion and growing. The UK is the 15th largest textile manufacturer in the world and significant capability still exists in traditional sectors such as yarn spinning, knitting, weaving and making up (Cut Make Trim/CMT).
Fashion is driving up demand for UK made homeware. Retailers are increasingly realising the benefits of on-shoring when examining the costs of discounting bulk bought stock from overseas which can exceed premiums paid for faster, smaller runs from UK manufacturers. This is coupled with the traditional two-season cycle no longer being the business model for growth in the sector. Demand for on-trend and in-season merchandise is increasingly driven by consumers adopting a 'buy now/wear now' mentality. To remain competitive retailers must be able to support in-season trading by responding quickly to the latest trends to maintain exclusivity of product. It's becoming clear, retailers can't afford to have large quantities of imported stock sat discounted on their shelves; to keep up with consumers they need a source of a variety of products, in small volumes in regular intervals... this is exactly the mission of The Great British Exchange.
Looking internationally there has been an uplift in demand for UK products particularly in BRIC countries and the Middle East; Germany and the USA are still the biggest importers. Here in the UK consumers are willing to pay a higher price for premium and heritage products made in Britain and this is evident as high street retailers such as John Lewis, Marks and Spencer and Debenhams have all introduced "Made in Britain" ranges.
For producers of British goods, retailers and manufacturers both pointed out that good design and product innovation will not only help differenciate products but it can also guarantee both a high mark-up/price premium (up to 25%) on products as well as diminish the need to discount. One retailer was quoted as saying, "There's a growing demand for the "Made in Britain" brand where heritage and provenance appeal to increasingly affluent consumers."
Along with this news came the insight that retailers feel there are gaps in their own staff's knowledge about current UK suppliers. They are looking for suppliers who can provide the right products, reliably, consistently and be of quality. Suppliers need to be able to react swiftly to variations in demand for different sizes and styles. A retailer commented, "There's a lack of knowledge of what's out there; it's not surprising as many people now working in sourcing have dealt mostly with overseas suppliers."
The report concluded that the key recommendations are to make suppliers easier to find and invest in the skill shortages as well as the brand image of the sector.
At The Great British Exchange we are so excited that the government has acknowledged this issue and a spotlight has been shone over this area. We know from experience that the demand for British products is ever increasing and we cannot wait to launch and really start making a difference to how retailers source amazing British products. We know the retailers are out there, we know the producers are out there and we know the manufacturers are out there... our job is to bring everyone together!
So whether you're a British producer, retailer or manufacturer get in touch with us and be part of something great!