19 July 2010

Country of origin

I have no doubt that there will be a wailing and gnashing of teeth over the announcement of the closure of Twyford's Alsager factory.

I can guarantee you that the usual suspects will bemoan the demise of another UK manufacturer, written on a computer made in Taiwan, before driving home in a Japanese car to watch an American made film on their flat screen TV made in Korea.

Let's get real please! My heart goes out to the skilled trades people from Twyford's factory that, even in a booming economy would have found it difficult to be reemployed in their vanishing profession.

But truth be told, the writing was probably on the wall for the Alsager factory while the ink was still drying on the sale contract of Twyford to Sanitec.

Country of origin stands for very little in most industries and the KBB market is not exempt from this.

Apart from at the bespoke end of the market most kitchen furniture companies get some or all of their doors from Italy.

Drawer runners, wirework and hinge systems almost certainly come from Germany or Austria or even further afield. One German kitchen company even gets its cabinets made in Italy, so how German is that kitchen today?

Kitchen appliances are much the same. Even if they are assembled in Italy or Germany, you can be pretty darn sure that some of the components come from China.

It cuts both ways of course. Whirlpool, that most American of companies, makes most of its refrigeration for Europe in Italy, and one Korean company has just bought a washing machine factory in Poland.

While there will always be a minority of people who want to buy British if they can, they are going to find it increasingly difficult to do so, as manufacturing is switched to countries who can offer the shareholders the best return on their investments - and don't even think of getting me started on the foreign ownership of so called 'UK' football teams!

I think the country of origin is going to mean even less in the future for the vast majority of KBB purchases. But what will be worth its weight in gold will be the service given to customers.

Ironically, we don't do service that well a lot of the time, and that is what will cost orders, not where the factory was that produced the goods.

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