School council: Charles Horton
MD of Charles Kirk talks about why the company continues to manufacture in the UK.
By Laura Turner
18 February 2012
Image: Charles Horton, managing director, Charles Kirk
Laura Turner: Why do you manufacture in the UK?
John Horton: We have always manufactured in Worthing, West Sussex, and will continue to do so. Having our own knitting and making up unit gives us greater flexibility in servicing our customers and schools. As well as having our own factory, we also import garments from South East Asia and source garments for embroidering and printing from Jerzees and Spalding.
LT: What are the main pros and cons of UK manufacturing?
JH: The advantages include having tighter control over the quality of our product and the fact that we can supply orders quicker than the Far East. The disadvantages are that, with the movement of the majority of textile manufacturing offshore, we as a company have difficulties in sourcing raw materials and maintenance for our machines, as well as attracting skilled workers.
UK manufacture will always be more expensive due to the higher cost of wages and overheads. However, as wages rise in the developing countries and transport costs increase, the difference on price is decreasing.
LT: Do you think the industry will grow?
JH: It is unlikely, as the infrastructure that used to support large numbers of textile firms has all but disappeared. Much of the machinery has been moved off-shore, and reinvesting in new machinery when labour costs in the UK are so high would be unlikely, unless there were substantial incentives from the government.
Manufacturing garments is labour-intensive and, though some jobs are skilled and well paid, the less skilled jobs on lower wages are less appealing. Until benefits are reduced so that it is more attractive to work than stay at home, the current decline of the industry will continue leaving small pockets of manufacturing of specialist goods.
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