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M&S and trade bodies urge integrated approach to UK manufacturing

Marks & Spencer has teamed up with the British Fashion Council, Creative Skillset and the UK Fashion & Textile Association to launch a more integrated approach to developing and promoting manufacturing in the UK.

The group commissioned a report on high-end and designer manufacturing in the UK, which was launched at an event at Somerset House in London on March 10.

It aims to share knowledge about UK production and drive further progress.

It calls for the creation of a Made in UK label so products can be clearly identified and compete with the “branding machines” of Made in Italy and Made in Portugal.

Simon Colbeck, head of innovation and quality at M&S, said: “Smaller manufacturers are not being heard, we have to look at how we can create a benchmarking system to recognise that quality. It’s important we drive that visibility and encourage smaller businesses to connect.”

He argued that larger manufacturers in northern England have benefited from government grants under The Alliance Project, but high-end London designers also need support.

“London is not recognised under the fund so we need to look at creating a fund to support designers based here, as a lot of the high-end fashion manufacturers are in London. It’s about supporting them and working out a way to create liquidity for small manufacturers in the UK.”

The Alliance Project is working with the N Brown Group Regional Growth Fund (Round 4) to support investment in textile firms across Greater Manchester, Lancashire and West Yorkshire.

This week’s report stressed that it “complements” the work of The Alliance Project as it focuses on the designer market.

It also advised the government to offer UK manufacturers the same support given in competitor markets, such as rent and rates reviews, 0% VAT on goods made in the UK, tax relief on investment and grants to modernise equipment.

BFC chief executive Caroline Rush said: “A concerted effort to rebuild the UK’s fractured manufacturing capacity for the fashion sector requires action from both industry and policymakers to support recommendations made within the report.

“Underpinning opportunities around manufacturing will not just see job and wealth creation, but will help British fashion designers to work with British suppliers based on proximity, price competition and skilled labour.”

The report forecasts that demand for UK-made high-end product will increase by 65% over the next five years. This would deliver an additional turnover of more than £400m and support an additional 1,700 jobs in the UK.

To read the full report go to www.britishfashioncouncil.co.uk/manufacturingreport

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