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Made in the UK? Er, not if it's a commemorative pen

By Hamish Champ
Posted 15 February 2013

With UK manufacturing being the way it is one might expect everyone to be pulling in the same direction.

We all want as much of the stuff that’s sold in the UK to have been made here, even if that doesn’t mean it is made by a UK-owned company.

I’m just old enough to remember the ‘I’m Backing Britain’ campaign but also what was a new phenomenon in the early 1970s of increasing numbers of consumer products being sold in this country which bore the stamp ‘Made In Japan’ (also the name of the greatest live album ever recorded, proving that even in those days mega rock bands were in touch with the zeitgeist. But I digress).

The thing is, we buy far more items that have been made overseas than ever before.

However, the use of overseas manufacturers can sometimes be a source of considerable irritation.

For example, I heard from a UK-based plastics processor recently who’d received the gift of a pen as part of a supplier’s anniversary celebrations.

The processor had taken considerable umbrage, although not because the pen was one of those which never writes properly regardless of how much one scribbles on a piece of scrap paper in order to get the ink flowing.

No, the processor was peeved because the pen bore the stamp ‘Made In China’.

Why, the processor wondered, could the company not have sourced a pen to send to its UK customers that had been made here? In the UK.

For our reader the sourcing of such a product overseas reinforced a view that some large companies have little idea about the realities facing SMEs on these shores.

Storm in a teacup? Perhaps.

But in a way the processor was making a valid point; many UK manufacturers are struggling to survive in the current economic climate.

The company which sent out the pen could have scored a big public relations coup by seeking out a firm in the UK which could make its commemorative gift products and which it could then send to its UK customers.

I don’t doubt the cost of making and sending out the pen(s) influenced its decision. And many will ask if it is that big a deal anyway?

But I can understand the processor’s frustration at receiving something that was doubtless supposed to be well-meant but which merely reminded them of the problems they have to face…

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