Now what I’m about to say may be a bit controversial but I have to say it because it’s been grating on me to the point it may affect my desire to become a customer of certain manufacturers.
For those who may not have seen the latest series by Mary Portas, the general jist is that she secured funding to get 8 trainees into a factory to be trained, get the factory re-opened and hopefully bring back some manufacturing to the UK. She also wanted every single element of the finished product to be British made and produced, from the fabrics used to the packaging and labels. She struck upon the idea of doing knickers and duly named the brand Kinky Knickers. In the end, after a few hurdles and supplier problems, it has been a huge success, in no small part due to the accessible price point of £10, something essential to Mary when competing with a sea of £1 Primark knickers. A luxury item at an affordable price.
During and since there has been quite a mixed response from other UK brands. The vast majority have been supportive and understanding of the aim of show. Aside from giving 8 unemployed people work (now up to 14 I think) and getting a factory reopened, as well as providing income for the whole supply chain, the awareness it has raised has also been monumentally successful.
More people now question where the items they choose to buy have come from and I dare say there may be a few more people willing to pay slightly more to support home grown businesses. It’s something I myself have been doing for some time.
I have noticed, however, an air of bitterness from some. I’m on Twitter, I follow brands I believe in and either buy from or plan to buy from in the future. The way they interact with the public and their “business face” is hugely important to me. I’m from a customer care/client care background and I know exactly the type of service and conversation I want to see from businesses I choose to deal with.
It would seem there are some who have completely missed the point of the show and now, a couple of weeks on, are still engaging in bitter conversation with their followers about “stolen ideas”, how they did it all first, how they are British made too. For me, it feels like they are just throwing all of their toys out of the pram and consequently could be losing more customers than they gain. It is certainly putting me off.
I’d prefer for them to have gently pointed out their view on it, which is actually brilliantly addressed on their website, if their followers take the time to go and read it but it’s coming across as angry and for me, as a customer, I don’t want to deal with an angry company. What if that anger reflects through their business? What if a product I buy ends up having a fault, no uncommon, will I be met with incredulous disbelief that any of their items could be less than perfect?
Mary Portas wanted to draw attention to just how little we produce in this company, how we in the UK, unlike other countries around the world, are mass consumers of cheap clothes from China and Hong Kong. She demonstrated how our lust for cheap consumables has destroyed British manufacturing but she also showed that the upcoming generations are becoming more savvy and wanted to prove it’s possible to have a successful UK made product that people will happily spend the extra on.
I want to like and support as many British manufacturers as I can but I am getting closer and closer to clicking that “Unfollow” button and not buying a product that is a different thing to Kinky Knickers, it’s at a higher price point for a start and I need to be sure I want to spend that money and the ongoing anger and public airing of that anger is making me sad and frustrated as a potential customer.