Magazine article Management Today

The Sharp End: Buying British for a Day

Magazine article Management Today

The Sharp End: Buying British for a Day

Article excerpt

How far can you get shopping only for UK-made goods? Dave Waller has a go.

For MT's Best of British issue, my challenge is to spend a day using only British-made products. Even 40 years ago that wasn't easy: when the government ran an I'm Backing Britain campaign in the 1960s, its promotional T-shirts turned out to have come from Portugal.

The morning kicks off surprisingly well when I learn that my Lush shower gel is from Dorset. The company is so right-on there's actually a sticker on the bottle showing which individual made it. I start to think that perhaps this isn't going to be so hard after all.

The feeling lasts until I turn on the taps. You'd think that water operates beyond the limits of national boundaries, given that it comes from the sky. But when I pay the bills it's Thames Water that profits And that's owned by Australian bank Macquarie. Five minutes in and I've already failed. I scrub hard as penance.

The plan is to head into the centre of London to buy simple day-to-day stuff - some British clothing and a toaster. It's a task that could prove awkward and not just because such things are hard to come by: none of my existing clobber hails from Blighty, so technically I'll have to go nude.

Such behaviour would be distinctly unBritish, so I decide to dress as patriotically as I can - my cords by Howies of Wales (made in China) and jacket and T-shirt by Cornwall's Finisterre (made in Portugal). Then I go off seeking something that's bound to cause problems: British transport.

Now here's a conundrum. London buses are made by the likes of Volvo and Mercedes. Most London Overground trains come from Canadian-owned multinational Bombardier's German factories. Even hitching a ride in a Land Rover or Jag would be pointless - both are proudly British-built, but owned by Tata. Maybe get on a Boris bike? Nope: made in Canada.

A little research does, however, reveal that the Southern Trains service still uses ageing British rolling stock. Built in York by British Rail Engineering in the 1980s - in the halcyon days when we moaned about our own services, not foreign ones.

I take the British train, then walk from Victoria to Oxford Street. It's time to buy a toaster. …

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