Department store chain John Lewis has become the latest retailer to throw its weight behind British manufacturing as it prepares to launch hundreds of home-grown products.
Managing director Andy Street believes the campaign can boost sales of UK products by at least 15 per cent by 2015 to some £550 million – more than 12 per cent of total full-year revenues.
The employee-owned group has already upped its local supplier base from 132 to 207 firms over the past year, contracting companies ranging from Spike & Edgar in Leeds for mattresses to Devon-based Dartington Crystal for glassware.
Currently, locally-sourced goods still only account for 10,500 of the roughly 350,000 items it sells.
Street said: “We think our customers want to buy British if they can. A UK-manufactured product is never going to be the cheapest, but we think there is a sweet spot.
“If customers can get the right product in terms of design, quality and value, we believe they will react positively to what we are trying to do.”
The initiative follows Sir Philip Green’s plans to get more British-made garments into his Topshop empire.
Furniture retailer DFS has increased its UK production by about a quarter in the past three years, while model specialist Hornby recently outlined plans to make a new Airfix range in the south of England.
Made-in-Britain clothing is rarely found in the big high street fashion chains these days, though Marks & Spencer – a one-time champion of the UK textiles industry – last week said it was bringing in a “Best of British” suit range this autumn.
Rising labour costs in Asia, particularly China, and the desire to keep a tighter grip on the supply chain could persuade other manufacturers and retailers to follow suit.
John Lewis’s announcement coincided with the 60th anniversary of the group’s Lancashire manufacturing arm Herbert Parkinson, which makes home textile products including curtains and pillows. Stuart McDonald, Herbert Parkinson’s managing director, said: “UK manufacturing remains a key focus for John Lewis so it’s apt that we are able to launch this target at a time when we are celebrating 60 years as partners of John Lewis, and our commitment to UK manufacturing.
“We strive to [deliver] innovative products, along with quality, service and design which is why we hope the new target, as well as the ‘Made in UK’ identifier, will allow us to generate awareness and further support UK manufacturing.”
The “Made in UK” identifier highlights goods made by British suppliers with a union flag.
Meanwhile, John Lewis will be hoping for some let up in the hot weather after the heatwave knocked sales at its department stores in the week to 13 July.
Figures released on Friday revealed an 8.7 per cent drop in takings compared with the year before. However, sales were up 14 per cent at supermarket arm Waitrose as sun-seekers stocked up on food, drink and barbecue products for eating outdoors.