RICHARD MOSS Communications Manager, Mark Wilkinson Furniture “When it comes to understanding design in the home, design flair, manufacturing flexibility and quality, the world recognises that no one can compete with Britain. Our kitchen- makers have appreciated, before
any other manufacturer from Europe, that homes are becoming far more ‘open’ spaces, where entertaining and entertainment are the key aspirations.
We have also built businesses that are more in tune with the end user, be that homeowner, or developer. Our continental competitors prefer to keep the manufacturing arm separate, with the focus then going on efficiency of manufacture. In Britain, we have a foundation of companies, who sell what they make to the consumer or developer, often with a service so broad that it involves individual room design and installation. It develops such a depth of understanding of what a kitchen should be and what a purchaser actually wants these days. Manufacturing methods are also much broader, there is just as much room in the workshops for a man with a chisel as there is for a fully computerised 5-axis router. In premium homes, where individuality is what’s wanted, that is a great advantage for everyone.
In terms of the broader picture, so far, Brexit has been an advantage, making us more competitive in other countries and foreign competitors less so in ours. But for the years before that word ‘Brexit’ was created, potential clients in Europe and especially in countries like the USA, the Far East and Russia, were coming to us because they liked to buy British. In these countries, the British brands were – and still are – aspirational brands; their premier homeowners searching for something more individual, wanting trusted brand names, individual design and top manufacturing quality, so much so that we have had to expand our manufacturing capability in the past 12 months.”
Other, perhaps, than whispering when we should shout, there is nothing making it difficult for British brands to compete with their global counterparts. They have chosen a different road, dictated to by production lines, which makes it impossible for them to compete with us. The perception of British as ‘best’ has never been stronger. What we have been doing recently, to tell our story better, can be seen in a complete revamp of our graphic and showroom design, ensuring that our classic look is also a design leader that enables clients and their friends and family, to enjoy their homes completely. I think it was perhaps two years ago, when we began including the word ‘England’ in our Logo and emphasised the fact that our products are made in our own workshops in Wiltshire.
GRAHAM JONES Sales and Marketing Director, Mereway
The most important core strength that British manufacturers and designers can offer is that they understand British tastes in terms of style and function. They also offer a more varied range, allowing the consumer to mix and match to allow their own design aspiration to be fulfilled. Many European designs just don’t offer this flexibility. British manufacturers also understand the flexible nature of how our markets work, especially when presented with customers who change their minds. Most British suppliers are able to deal with changes right up until the production paperwork is printed a few days before delivery.
British brands do compete well with European competition and Brexit may or may not have an impact. There is so much uncertainty around Brexit that it is difficult to assess how much of a threat it is to British manufacturing. Clearly exchange rates and tariffs are going to have influence on prices and the economic stability of some companies. However, consumer confidence is holding and the drive to build more new houses is likely to keep the market growing for UK manufacturers.
DAVID OSBORNE Managing Director of Roman
Although we are volume manufacturers, what sets us apart is our ability to develop products for specific customers and contracts, which is very capability driven. Roman not only manufactures shower enclosures, it also fabricates solid surface products such as vanity units; walls; and structure for the bathroom – offering the complete package.
We are able to be much more flexible with our lead times, volume variants and minimum order quantities. Products ordered will be built the following day for quick despatch so you don’t need to store large stock of products. We can carefully monitor the quality of all our products, in a way that would not be possible if we were to manufacture them overseas. All products are CE marked; have individual tracking codes; have a digital image before the box lid is added; and are weighed to within 25 grams as a final check.
By manufacturing in the UK we are able to be much more flexible and reactive as a supplier, which is vital in today’s challenging marketing conditions, allowing us to quickly respond and make product improvements and developments where required.
Since Brexit, clearly exchange rates have had a seismic shift. Imported Chinese product is more expensive and exporting our products is cheaper. We are sure currencies will drift back towards their more recognised levels over the next two years. For us, we anticipate little impact as most export work is specification driven, for example special moulding, special fabrication and special shower enclosures all built for the specific project requirements. This is heavily capability driven rather than on price or nationality.
British Brands are increasingly positively received around the world. Whilst historically this has been focused around former commonwealth countries, we are finding that the British manufacturers now have residence in most developed markets. The Made in Britain organisation is pushing British provenance extremely hard internationally and in the UK and we see very little negativity on the Brexit situation from the business community on a business-to-business level.
Featured: Kitchen design for chef Micheal Roux Jr, based on the New England collection in Richmond Grey painted finish
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