Sir Philip Green has come out in support of a return to British manufacturing, stating the time is right to examine opportunities to re-open UK factories and that Arcadia will try to bring more production to British shores.
Speaking at the Retail Week Conference, Green told delegates that although he did not forsee all production returning to the UK, he was supportive of an “intelligent” investigation into what could be done with UK factories.
He said: “When the market is as it is you want to manage as near home as you can. That’s why there’s some debate about UK manufacturing and people actually opening some new factories.
“I am very supportive of seeing if we can open more factories in the UK. There is an opportunity to look at derelict factories to see if we can re-open them again in an intelligent way.
“Is suddenly all our production coming back here? No. Is there an opportunity to do some production here? Hopefully there is and we’re going to try,” he said.
Green’s remarks echo the ambitions of the Drapers SOS Save Our Skills campaign, which launched last month after manufacturers said they were struggling to cope with a sudden surge in demand for their products and capacity.
There is clear evidence of UK retailers, including Green’s own Bhs chain and footwear giant Clarks, looking closer to home to source some product categories which are no longer cost effective to produce offshore.
Rising input prices and high labour charges in the Far East combined with massive competition for capacity in China and increased freight costs have made the UK increasingly attractive as a potential sourcing bed.
The short lead times that production in the domestic market offers are also attractive given the volatile consumer confidence that has characterised high street trading of late. If capacity is available, then UK production enables retailers to work closer to the season with lead times of just a few weeks against the months it takes to sample, produce and then ship from China.