Made in England: Why pay more for home-grown products? And where is the real value in our buying choices?

It’s curious that the meaning of the word “value” is increasingly about cost, in particular low cost. But what about the value we place on what we buy, and the value of the people and companies that create the things we choose to fill our lives with?

We hear from stockists who have to defend the cost of a product, explaining the difference between a £10 overseas mass-produced cushion and a more expensive UK made product. Of course, the higher priced UK cushion uses high quality materials, features more complex prints, pays a fare wage to those involved and hasn’t travelled half way around the world. But there are many other reasons to look at what we are paying, where we are spending and the power that choice has.

To illustrate this point here is a list of just some of the UK companies that contribute to the making of Fenton products:

Printed Fabrics
Standfast and Barracks, Lancaster
2 Surface, Nottingham

Dyed Fabrics
Premier Textiles, Manchester

Cushion Make-up
Phoenix, Nottingham

Cushion Pads
All Shapes Cushions, Hemel Hempstead

Cushion Zips
Nova Trimmings, Leicester

Lampshades
100 Watt, Heanor

Wall Murals
Canon, Derby

Giclée Art Prints
Zabbage, Sheffield

From this list we estimate that around 37 people are involved in producing our products every month. These are people who pay bills, buy food and support their families just like you. The companies they work for are all leaders in their field for the skills they possess and quality they produce, which all comes from ethical investment in their facilities, people and practice. And where does that investment come from? Simply put, it comes from you, the consumer.

Each time you buy one of our standard £44 cushions from a retailer Fenton gets £17. That £17 has to pay for the printing of the fabric, the backing fabric, the zip, the label, the cushion pad and for someone to cut and sew the product. Also from that £17 Fenton has to fund staff salaries, premises, utilities, tax, marketing and give part of each sale to the artist. Once the shop sells the cushion it gets the remainder of the £27. With that it has its own salaries, rent and other costs to pay for, not to mention keeping those beautiful, independent, well-designed spaces on our local high streets.

So it’s important to see that your “Made in Britain” purchase supports all of these people who in turn recirculate their money back into the UK economy. You keep those shops open and allow us to keep creating designs and supporting new artists, but more importantly your purchase allows us to pay taxation that keeps books in schools and beds in hospitals.

Of course we know paying £44 for a cushion isn’t for everyone. But even at the low cost end of the interiors market if we buy the £15 cushion, rather than the £10 one, from an ethical manufacturer who cares about its workers we can help to provide better working conditions with higher wages so they too can live better lives.

What we ask is that you think about the deeper story behind what you buy. When you spend your hard earned cash look beyond what you are getting, how little or how much you have spent, to how that money is helping and supporting others in the wider community. Understand how choosing to buy British is making our society better or how that money can help to bring better lives to those overseas. Try quality rather than quantity; buying less and buying better; and informed choices through conscious buying.