John Lewis and Marks and Spencer have both announced new commitments to support British suppliers and manufacturers. The John Lewis local push is a large initiative that will develop more over the coming months. Marks and Spencer, meanwhile, has signed up to be one of the first customers of a newly restored cotton mill in Manchester.
The John Lewis “Locally Made” campaign will have the retailer feature locally designed and manufactured products from across the UK in dedicated areas in its shops. It’ll launch at their Leeds location on 20 October, which will showcase over 120 products from 11 Yorkshire suppliers, all of whom are based within a 30-mile radius of Leeds. All products will also be available on the John Lewis website, so Brits everywhere, as well as international shoppers, can purchase them.
This John Lewis local business project is in partnership with The Great British Exchange (GBE), which sources products from established and emerging designers, independent businesses, and British factories across the UK. Anna Rigby, the head of buying for home accessories and gifts at John Lewis, commented, “Our Made Locally campaign, in partnership with The Great British Exchange, will help us strengthen our existing local supplier base and inevitably champion more British designers and manufacturers.”
Meanwhile, English Fine Cottons is opening a restored mill in Manchester, where the last commercial scale mill closed nearly 30 years ago. The mill will produce high-end yarn that will go to manufacturers in Italy, Switzerland, and Germany. A report in the Financial Times says that Marks and Spencer and Burberry have inquired about the line of cotton, while This Is Money reports that M&S is a customer.
These locally-made initiatives are especially compelling given the current political climate. It seems that M&S and John Lewis’s choices are signals of the times, and we can’t help but wonder if they represent the beginning of a large shift for retail.