'Made in Britain' push for John Lewis?

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John Lewis boss Andy Street claims he wants to hike the number of British-made products - including a big push with textiles - sold by the retailer by 15% to £550m. Street has set a threshold of 2015 to meet this target.

What's behind the Made in UK interest? Is there a return, more widely, to Built-in-Britain pride?

Self-hate

If Street is right, then it's a faith increasingly recognised by overseas buyers, particularly from Asia. The 1970s left a long shadow. British Leyland. Strikes. Ageing technology and manufacturing techniques. But perhaps no one hated British products* as much as ourselves.

"We think our customers want to buy British if they can," Street told the Telegraph. " A big area for us is home-based: our fitted kitchens are made in Birmingham, we have beds made in Leeds. We want to help British manufacturers to grow their share as much as we can."

Street also went on to state that the UK is still the world's sixth largest manufacturing country. Latest facts appear to support the UK's manufacturing surge: in June, UK manufacturing activity climbed by the biggest margin for two years, according to the latest Markit/CIPS purchasing managers' index.

Asian interest

Much of the interest in British products is from a fast-growing Asian middle class, which associates many British products with heritage, quality - and technology. A potent mix. From cars - Jaguar Land Rover 2012 sales climbed 30% on 2011 - to hi-fi, nanotechnology, fashion and, even, expresso machines made for export to Italy (Birmingham-based expresso-maker Fracino).

Street, then, clearly thinks if UK consumers like the mix of Brit design, quality and price, they will buy in. Last year John Lewis upped its UK supplier base from 132 to 207 firms. Something, then, to be proud of?

*The writer P.J O'Rourke wrote in an essay that a Jaguar's alarm would randomly go off in the night "for no reason other than to remind you that Jaguars are made in England."


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