People who know me well will be aware that I am not a fan of Margaret Thatcher. However, one campaign she ran in the eighties does stick in my head. She said we should be buying British, to support British companies and protect the jobs of our fellow citizens.
I am not one for flag waving or protectionism at all. In fact, I am looking at this from a green perspective more than anything else, although I am obviously happy to support my fellow countrymen with their efforts to make a living. With Brexit looming and the threat of global warming hard to sidestep, should we go back to buying British? Maybe we should look to buy fewer items of better quality that will last years rather than lots of massed produced, cheap stuff?
Reducing food miles by buying British
I love bananas and don’t see us growing those any time soon here in the UK, even with global warming. The Indians and Chinese will no doubt continue to produce my morning cup of tea. However, it has always seemed nonsensical to me that we import, for example, New Zealand lamb. Our hillsides are full of sheep! It also seems odd to eat beef from an Argentinian hillside when we produce a lot of the stuff right here.
And why do we have apples from all around the world lining our supermarket shelves when our own delicious varieties are in season?
With the microscope on protecting climate, it makes to sense to me to be buying British fresh produce whenever possible. Fewer food miles whilst supporting our own farmers.
My initial thoughts were that it would be fairly pointless trying to buy many British produced goods other than food. We barely manufacture anything nowadays! Or is that really the case now? Worth looking into I think.
If you looked on the labels of clothing items in the sixties and seventies, almost all of them were made in Great Britain. Now you are mostly likely to find the country of manufacture is China. This is one of the reasons I love picking up vintage clothing. It has that rare ‘Made in Great Britain’ label and takes me back.
I did recently pick up what I thought was a vintage item the other day because it was labelled Made in London. However, it is new, just inspired by the fifties, from a company called Vivien of Holloway. They make beautiful clothing if you like that retro look and prices are on a par with higher end high street brands that have factories in China. So if they can do it, who else is producing British made products?
I discovered that Hotter shoes are made in the UK, with a factory in Lancashire. I always look out for them second hand as they are such good quality, but also buy them new when I can. The proof of the pudding is in the wearing: I have a pair of Hotter leather boots I bought brand new 4 or 5 years ago that seem to go on and on! I could have bought a cheap pair made in China and I am pretty sure they would be in the bin by now.
Nowadays, it is cheaper to make practically anything in far flung developing countries and ship them from around the globe than it is to manufacture them here. However, there are some lovely, great quality items that you can find fairly easily that are made in Britain, such as crafts and gifts.
However, it has to be said that products made in Britain tend to be higher end and higher prices. It depends on your priorities and what you can afford at the end of the day, but might it be that buying better quality that lasts actually saves us money?
Cottage industries to support
Here are a few ideas off the top of my head where I think you can find British made products.
Hand made clothing, knitwear, etc.
You can often find these in craft centres and at shows. Laura’s Loom has a selection of British made wool scarves that won’t break the bank.
With people trying to avoid plastic hand washes and shower gels, soap making is undergoing a resurgence.
Again, easy to locate in craft centres.
Small craft breweries
Microbreweries seem to be popping up everywhere these days! The beer in the pub where my daughter works mostly sells their own brews. Check out Colchester Brewery.
British wine makers
British wine used to be a joke, but you can now pick it up in your local supermarket. We have a few vineyards not far from us in Essex where you can do a tour and a tasting. The wine isn’t cheap though.
These obviously focus on locally grown food (starting with their own) and products like ice cream, jams and chutneys.
We have always produced decent quality glassware, for example Darlington Glass.
Again, craft fairs are a good place to find jewellery, but I absolutely love Pretty Wild Jewellery. Gorgeous designs inspired by nature and made by the designer in her Durham workshop.
As someone who is in the process of kick starting my own business, I don’t have money to throw around. I am on a tight budget. Even so, I am going to start thinking twice about what I buy to see if there is a UK made alternative for a similar price, or if the greater price is worth paying because the item will last longer.
In the course of writing this post, I found a website you might find helpful Make it British, which has a directory of companies manufacturing in Great Britain.
This interesting post from the Daily Telegraph from a few years ago gives more information is you want to try to buy more British products.
What about you? If you are UK based has Brexit and the issues of the environment made you think about buying more British and if you are overseas are you having similar conversations?