For the world of business and UK fenestration, the dangerous period wasn’t in March of April, in the sense of finances. Not even May. The dangerous period is coming soon.

When the support schemes the Government introduced to help prop up entire sectors and state-paid incomes begin to be wound down, that’s when we’ll see the damage to the economy and its scale. We have been warned it will be massive, with the Chancellor saying we face a recession the likes of which we have never seen. If you want to try to understand now and arm yourself with knowledge and insight before the rest, watch this video from The Economist. Its eight and a half minutes but it’s worth a watch. Based on data available now, from the economies and countries around the world that have already reopened.

We face a challenge that is likely to put the 2008 financial crisis in the shadows. So, in light of the coming challenge, I’m of the opinion that in as many ways as we can, we have to back Britain in a meaningful, substantive way. Become less reliant of economies in other parts of the planet and relearn what it means to become domestically stronger.

Supporting British

It has been disappointing to see some of the comments from people in our own sector sarcastically underplay the “buy British” sentiment. There is absolutely nothing wrong with backing a push to support British companies and markets to help repair and rebuild our own domestic economy. No, that doesn’t mean piling up our South Korean made phones and dancing around a bonfire chanting either.

But there is an argument now for much more to be made in this country, including fenestration products. The reasoning is two-fold. Firstly, it would greatly strengthen our own domestic supply chains, making them more secure from global and regional problems. Not only that, but it would also help create more jobs here in the UK, with the money earned by those people being spent here. Secondly, its becoming politically very difficult to continue to support countries like China, who oppress their own people and territories they see as their own, all in the name of cheap goods. I’ll expand more on this point later.

My wife and I have spoken about this a lot the past few weeks. This crisis has exposed how reliant we are on so much from far around the world. That paradigm works only when things are settled and quiet. In the past five years, little has been settled and quiet. We have decided that in as many ways we can, when it comes to buying anything we’ll look to make sure we can buy it from a British manufacturer. Not only would we be more convinced of its quality, but we want to support the people and companies here, in the hopes that the disposable income being put into the pockets of UK workers spend it here, helping to grow the UK economy.

We accept that its probably going to cost us more money, British goods and services always do. But if it means a UK company can expand and support jobs, then we’re more than happy to contribute to that. We have also talked about supporting more local businesses. We are now buying our meat from a local butcher. Yes, it costs more, but the quality is actually far better and we don’t mind paying more for better. We’re looking at getting our milk delivered again by a local dairy rather than a supermarket, including fresh orange juice, and bread. Its all about supporting local as much as we can and helping to build a more prosperous community in our area.

To support Britain is not some politically motivated, nationalistic ideology. Its a call to help build a successful place in which we live. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In a post-COVID world, we’re going to need a lot more of that if we hope to build a better, stronger, local community spirit and business ecosystem.

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The will to change

I have long been a supporter of the idea of more of UK fenestration’s products being made here in this country. I believe it would better protect our supply chain, create jobs, produce better products and be better long term for our sector. We saw in February when China was battling coronavirus and it had to shut down its manufacturing sector. There were quickly worries about whether our industry would get the window and door hardware it needed. You cannot help but think if we made more of what we use here then we’d worry less about disrupted supply chains from the other side of the world.

However, if we’re serious about boosting British made products, then we have to not only support the idea, but have the will to follow through with it, and be prepared to put our hands in our pockets and pay for it. As I mentioned above, products and services here cost more than it does in China.

Some have said that we’d never change, and quickly revert back to China and other Asian-made products because it is cheaper. I’m more positive than that. In a recent report by Made In Britain, they found that 8 out of 10 people surveyed would pay more for products made in Britain. Two-thirds said they would to help support or create UK jobs. 63% though it would help in the fight against climate change. The report is worth reading and you can find it here. What it should show is that there is an appetite there for British made products and UK fenestration shouldn’t shy away from that, rather they should be embracing it.

The point about climate change is a major one. Due to the pandemic that particular subject has been pushed to the bottom of the list, as you would expect. However it’s as pressing now as it ever has been, and any economic recovery should be built on a sustainable platform. If buying windows and doors in this country, made from products fabricated here can help reduce our carbon footprint and contribute in the collective effort then surely this is something that has to be looked at.

China no longer deserves unchecked support

This pandemic was supposed to have taught us the importance of being good to one another. In the spirit of that attitude, we now have to have a long hard look at some of the countries we deal with. Front and centre is China. A country that has oppressed its own people. A country that suppresses minority groups into brainwashing facilities. A country that in the past has fired on students for protesting. A country that holds no free elections and supports dictators like Kim Jong-Un across the border.

Its widely accepted that they hid their coronavirus problem for weeks. Time which could have been spent on coordinating an international effort to help reduce the spread. Instead, the communist state hid the reality of what was happening, by which time when the real scale of the problem became clear it was already too late. It cannot be any more serious than this. Their inaction has killed. As an industry, should we really be turning a blind eye to what they have done, and continue to do, in the name of cheap window handles and fenestration components?

I understand why manufacturers set up in China. Unit costs and setup costs are far lower there than they are here. They get s**t done. It takes longer here and unit costs are a lot higher. But if we’re not going to use the tragedy of this pandemic, and the actions of a communist Government which has aided in the loss of life measuring in the hundreds of thousands to assess our support for such regimes then this is a lost opportunity.

The last time I brought this subject up I was left a comment on LinkedIn from a poorly misinformed connection who had clearly not read the article properly. So to be totally blunt, this is not about the Chinese people, but about the Chinese Government. On that same post, I was in a thread with a lovely lady from China, where we were debating the issue. In one of her replies to me, she mentioned that whilst she could respond to some of my own opinions, she could not comment about the failures of her Government. That there is the problem. She knows she being watched, so cannot freely speak her mind for fear of consequences. Do we think that is right? Do we turn a blind eye to that kind of stuff in the name of cheap window hardware?

China no longer deserves the support it is being given by manufacturing sectors from the UK and around the world. Not only due to the crisis sweeping the world right now, but for their past record on human rights. I am unapologetic about this opinion, and I reiterate that this strictly aimed at the dictatorship in China and not its population.

Ending on a more positive note, this is a chance for our industry, as well as manufacturing in the UK in general, to seize upon a swelling base of support for UK production. As the Made In Britain report suggests, the appetite is out there, even with higher costs, to make and buy more from this country. Hard times are on the horizon, so its important that we make the most of any opportunity that might present itself.


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