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Letter to the editor: Volume manufacturing in the UK is over

Dear sir, I write in reference to your Editor’s Comment ‘Making the most of making in the UK’ (Drapers, March 14).

I have just landed in Hong Kong from China and then I will be my way to Vietnam, where we have now started suit production because our customers find Chinese production too expensive. When I read last week’s edition, I wondered what planet we are living on.

Yes, there is specialist and designer manufacturing in the UK, but let’s not waste too much oxygen and money debating it. We don’t have the skills, the willing workforce or the required investment, nor is there any real demand for product at the prices needed for any potential manufacturer to make and retailer to sell.

Six years ago Lord Simon Wolfson [chief executive of Next] spoke at the relaunch of the UK Fashion and Textile Association and made no apologies for saying there was no longer a place for UK clothing, because the consumer does not need to and will not pay the price. He upset a few people, but he was, as always, honest and correct.

Your editorial condoned Marks & Spencer for its commitment, but I wonder, for example, how many suits made in Crewe they really sell per week. Maybe M&S should take a lesson on reality from Lord Wolfson in this (and many areas), while all these committees should recognise that volume manufacturing of apparel in this country is over.

Simon Berwin

Managing director of menswear supplier Berwin & Berwin

Readers' comments (8)

  • Bravely spoken Mr Simon, and with authority. But how can Italy sustain such a sizeable quality clothing manufacturing capacity which appears not to be possible in the UK?

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  • Greetings David. The difference is ITALY has held onto its industry whereas we are talkin about rebuilding ours. Is there any UK product in your fine retail emporium?


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  • You are speaking a lot of truth Simon that a lot of people don't want to hear. The problem is that it's not politically correct to promote import-even though consumer pricing demands it.

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  • I would also state that a huge amount of product is made outside Italy by Italian Companies. We live in a time when people don't want to work in clothing factories old and dirty! We had our chance to invest back in the 60's but we didn't and now its too late. We can not mass produce suits in the U.K end of story.
    The suits in M&S were terrible for the money so it was another good idea but it didn't work , believe me!! We have just given a fortune to another Lord to report something we all know, certainly in the Men's sector. Sweat shops in Leicester, wages under the minimum pay now there is a shock!

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  • darren hoggett

    Spot on Simon.

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  • It seems a bit strange to have on the main board of UKFT which is export and U.k. driven Mr Berwin, Mr Lugg, Mr Lucas none of them produce a single garment in the U.K . So when they export they are not too interested in MADE IN BRITAIN.
    Sorry but that;s the truth.

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  • In my experience, the typical consumer couldn't give a damn where a garment is made as long as the quality is good. Many people still remember the 'Buy British' campaigns of the 1970's when consumers were basically being asked to be patriotic and therefore buy a load of crap.

    Other than high end, we cannot compete.

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  • Totally agree, cant think of the last time I heard a customer ask "where is this made" Its not really that relevant in a global market.

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