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Opinion: local sourcing of merchandising units is back on the menu says Charles Kessler

Economics, like fashion and all aspects of life, goes in cycles. This truth applies to colours and design fashions, to economic theories and even to merchandising. And so it is that the wheel has turned again on the issue of merchandising and display sourcing.

Ten years ago offshore sourcing became the fashion, with a seemingly inexorable move to the Far East in particular. Everything was to be manufactured in China or far flung outposts from our European world.

But time has moved on, economic/organisational realities have changed, and the advantages of local sourcing and production have become increasingly apparent over the last 18/24 months.

Production here in Europe, proximity to the source of demand, ease of communication, maintaining quality: all these have become vitally important and recognised again. For merchandising in particular one additional reason lends itself to local production – the speed of change of design and the late, last minute alterations to what is wanted.

Investment is up, local demand is up, and the belief that there is still a future in UK manufacturing has taken root.

No lesser organisation than IBM itself has backed this up. Every year, IBM makes five predictions for the near future. In 2014, prediction number three is:

Retail – in the next five years, buying local will beat buying online and distance.

In other words, local supply, local ability to touch and feel, local ability to personalise for individual needs, will be key to success.

The implications for brands and retailers who want to make a flexible offer to an ever changing consumer are clear. Think global, act local has morphed in to think quickly, react quicker.

Let’s hear it for UK manufacturing as well as UK design!


Charles Kessler is chairman of display and merchandising company Kesslers International