While I am looking forward to 2013 my crystal ball is a little foggy and I don’t have any idea what it holds for us in the craft industry. But I did hear some heart-warming news on the BBC Radio 4’sToday programme. Jaguar cars is creating 800 more jobs and other, higher end manufacturers in this sector are also doing well. The inference was that our workforce can offer the skills and quality that brands are looking for. It reminded me of the surge of pride I felt during the Olympic opening ceremony and its focus on the industrial revolution and British manufacturing.
I studied Textiles at University in Manchester when the textile industry was a significant employer in the UK. My first job was for Courtaulds which employed nearly 10% of that sector at a time when ‘Made in Britain’ was the cornerstone of Marks and Spencer’s business strategy. During my time the textile industry was decimated as companies moved more and more of their production off shore to the Far East, South America and, more recently Eastern Europe. It made sense economically and the textile industry was not alone in this trend. But it seems we now have a new ‘on shore’ trend. Our reputation for craftsmanship, superior design and quality are once again something to shout about.
Works Management magazine highlighted the start of this trend in 2011 as the number of people employed in manufacturing began to rise.
‘The number, albeit modest, underpins much other official and anecdotal evidence of the revival in fortunes of an industry all but abandoned as a lost cause a decade ago and should further boost confidence in a sector still lacking investment’
According to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers UK Manufacturing in 2012 manufacturing plays a vital role generating over 11% of the UK’s total wealth, 60% of exports three times more than financial services and all other knowledge intensive services combined, employing 2.6 million jobs just under 10% of the UK workforce.
In August 2012 the Telegraph ran a story that asserted that 40% of UK companies are bringing production back on shore. Take the case of Laxton’s. At the end of last century the company, well known for its yarns, closed its UK manufacturing, unable to compete with cheaper imports. The company became an importer of yarns and sold its spinning machines to manufacturers all over Europe. Now they are once again spinning in Yorkshire as part of a growing number of companies that find there are so many benefits to manufacturing in the UK. They produce high end, bespoke yarns that are stocked in shops such as John Lewis. The company and reawakened the skills and expertise they have and the flexibility of having your manufacture geographically close to you is well worth the money.
As consumers become more aware of ‘Made in Britain’ it should benefit the heritage craft sector. After all we are manufacturing even if it is only on a small scale. We have the skill, standards of excellence and ingenuity of our bigger cousins.
I think this is something worth celebrating in 2013