The Journal

3rd December 2014

Border POST 2. Why Made in England Matters

Border Post – An Irregular Contribution from the Owner Manager of Chapman Bags

Post 2 – Why Made in England Matters

People sometimes ask me why it matters that we make all our products in our own factory in England. Here’s my answer.

Authenticity

We live in a world full of brands. Many of them are made in the same factories in China, India and the Far East. Making our products in England differentiates our brand. Made in England can still be a powerful selling edge in overseas markets, particularly where a label denoting country of origin is required, and that includes the USA, Japan and China. Perversely no such labelling requirement exists in the UK; I will address this important issue another time!

Quality

You tend to get what you pay for. When a cheap zip, shoulder strap or fastening breaks, that can be the end of a bag’s usefulness. We can guarantee quality of materials and build by making our bags in our own factory in England.

Customer Service

Our customer service team sits right next to our factory and is able to deal immediately with the kind of issues other brands struggle with: bespoke enquiries, repairs and renewals and production lead times. We don’t have to wait for a container to arrive from the Far East or for people to wake up in a different time zone.

British Values

Our products embody what we hope are good British values: sincerity, reliability, common sense, style and indeed a bit of humour. The integrity of this appeal is all the more powerful knowing that the product has an authentic provenance. There are too many brands out there whose products have virtually nothing to do with the brand’s purported values. The customer is not getting what it says on the tin.

The UK Economy

I don’t want to come over all socially conscientious because this is a business we are trying to run, not a charity. The fact remains, however, that by manufacturing in the UK and using British suppliers wherever possible, we are recycling nearly 100% of our revenues back into the UK economy and providing employment in areas which are poorly served by more London centric industries and business models. We are genuinely making the cake bigger and, as half our production is exported, our business is not entirely dependent on domestic demand.

Carlisle and our Local Community

Our manufacturing operation has been based in Carlisle since the Company was founded over 30 years ago. Our products and the people who make them are rooted in a local community with a wonderful heritage. This gives our business a hinterland, a reality and identity which other brands lack. We are investing in this relationship through the expansion of our factory and through 3 apprenticeship schemes for a new generation of employees.

Ethical Sourcing

The issue of ethical sourcing is extremely complex and challenging. While I recognise there are companies who do their best in this area, the fact remains that it is extremely difficult to monitor suppliers thousands of miles away. There is also something slightly absurd about shipping materials to the Far East to make goods which are then shipped back to Europe and then sold back to customers in China! We avoid these issues by making our products here in England.

Design, Technology and Manufacturing

Today’s received wisdom is that manufacturing occupies a relatively small part of the value chain compared to design, technology, intellectual property, brand value and distribution. The classic example given is usually Apple: “designed in California, assembled in China”. I will address the Apple analogy at length next time, but for now I would simply say that we belittle the value of manufacturing with the benefit of 250 years of acquired industrial “know how”, a legacy which transcends and enables excellent design and continued technological progress. In my view, we are now spending that legacy, but failing to invest adequately in its replacement.

Next Week (hopefully): Apple and Manufacturing