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Editorial blog

Keep It Close to Home

20 Mar 2020

With the increasingly global nature of the way we run our lives and our businesses, how important is it anymore where something is made? We were much more likely to align our preconceptions of quality, and the associated cost, with national borders. Made in Germany meant it was going to last forever but you’d pay for the privilege. Conversely, anything from Taiwan was going to be cheap and probably fall apart, and made in the UK was something you did out of national pride, rather than economic sense.

These days there’s a much more homogenous nature to the supply chain, with quality from the Far East massively improved, and efficiencies in European manufacturing creating a much more competitive environment. So, where does ‘Made in the UK’ fit?

In a nutshell, it’s about flexibility. Local production should create plenty of opportunities to develop new products, reducing the barriers that long lead times, high minimum order quantities and the communication challenges of global sourcing often present.

Create bespoke products

Staying one step ahead of the competition is key to success. Having something on your shelves that nobody else has can create more benefits than just the sales of that product. Repeat business is crucial to long-term survival and an exclusive, unique product is a great reason for your customers to return. And when they’re back it’s always a chance to fill their basket with all the other essentials! Working with a local manufacturer, especially if they understand your market, gives you the chance to test out an idea without a large financial commitment.

Utilise own branding

You’ve put a lot of effort into building your business, and in the process, you’ve created what the marketing types like to call ‘Brand Equity’. Effectively, that’s the fact your customers have grown to know, love and trust you, and if you put your name to a product then those same values come with it. When you own-brand a sketch pad, for example, you also create something unique that’s hard for customers to compare, often with increased margin opportunities. However, committing to a large order from China and ensuring consistent quality can be a challenge. Local manufacture minimises the risks, and the hassle.

Capitalise on short lead times

Social media is buzzing with the latest art and craft trend, and your customers are asking about where to buy it, but your normal supplier is going to take three months to get it to you. Very frustrating! Trends, after all, are just that – fleeting moments in time that unless you can act on quickly will be gone by the time you get there, or all wrapped up by your competition. Sourcing from the UK gives you the opportunity to respond fast and make hay while the trend shines.

Make use of low minimum order quantities

Even with a lot of research, listing a new and unique product in your store can be a leap of faith. Shelf space is precious, and you don’t have an unlimited budget. All the most successful business people take risks, but they are calculated, with every effort made to reduce the impact.

One way to limit the financial risk of creating a bespoke product or introducing an own-brand range is to simply buy less of them initially and then order more if it takes off. Partnering with a local manufacturer should give you the option to test new ideas without the signifi cant investment.

Keep environmental standards in mind

It’s no longer possible to ignore the impact our consumer lifestyle has on the Earth’s resources. Choosing to work with a manufacturer that ensures high and consistent standards, like only using FSC approved papers, is something that’s not only a lifestyle statement but also makes good business sense these days.

West Design is a pretty rare breed in the art and craft market it would seem, for as well as importing the products we design, and distributing some the best known brands in the world, we also have our own manufacturing site in the UK. We’re lucky to have a talented in-house product design team working closely with a production team in our Plymouth site. We’ve helped create some unique and successful products over the years, for customers such as Hobbycraft, WHSmith, Toys R Us and more.

We can help bring your lightbulb moment to market, or to tap into the latest trend. Every business has its own goals and challenges; when we understand yours, it helps us offer you the right products and level of support to help you grow.

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