'The Next Big Thing?' is a series of blogs that will focus on small businesses and startup brands in the UK. Whether they are quirky, practical, pioneering or downright bizarre, this blog will shine the spotlight on what could be the next big thing...
In less than three weeks, large swathes of the UK will be taking part in street parties, munching on scones with jam and clotted cream, and raising a glass of something (potentially alcoholic) to the Queen, all in the name of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations.
A recent poll of 2000 people, taken by the think tank Demos in November 2011, found that 79% of the Britons quizzed said they agreed with the statement 'I am proud to be a British citizen'.
With patriotic feelings running at a high, and the Olympics also on the way, being British (and being proud of it) is all the rage right now. But does this sense of pride translate to the products that we buy - day-in, day-out? In the houses and the flats in which we all live, how many of the products are actually made in Britain?
There's definitely no shortage of advocates, like business mogul Lord Sugar and Queen of Shops, Mary Portas, who are shining the light on British manufacturing in a bid to get us all thinking about buying British.
Clare Rayner, The Retail Champion and UK Lead for Independent Retailer Month, said "In times of austerity people obviously review their spending habits. There's no doubt that they're price sensitive, spending the minimum on the basics. If and when they do splash out, there is a growing tendency to spend on something that they can trust to offer good value, either due to being well made or other attributes. British-made brands do seem to engender an inherent level of trust; although that tends to be due to perceived higher quality standards, which can lead to higher priced products."
"In my view consumers don't have sufficient access to information about products to make informed decisions; they don't know what's British and what's an import, so the decision to purchase is based on other factors. John Lewis Partnership clearly believe being British-made will influence consumers to buy certain products - a BBC TV news feature showed them highlighting British made items with Union Flag stickers. It remains to be seen if our patriotic feelings translate into patriotic purchasing."
It should come as no surprise then that insights provider Verdict Research, who just surveyed more than 6,000 adults in the country, found that IKEA, the Swedish furniture chain, was the favourite retailer of respondents overall.
You'd be hard pressed not to find at least one IKEA item of furniture in most people's homes, Low price and functionality have combined to give us such popular objects as Billy bookshelves and Poang chairs. With over 10,000 items to choose from online, the temptation to deck our houses out in flat-pack Scandinavian-style is pretty strong.
However, a fight back has begun. There are lots of small businesses who are now capitalising on the consumer trend to buy British and support manufacturing in the UK. Chase and Wonder is one such business. Launched by David Aspinall and Faye Pearce from a converted cow shed in rural Worcestershire, Chase and Wonder is a new creative and design company that hand-prints limited edition prints and homeware products in the UK. At present, their prints are stocked in Liberty of London, as well as select galleries across the country.
"Chase and Wonder has one aim - to bring fine design with British personality back into people's homes", comments David Aspinall. "We believe that there is a growing demand for products that have a tangible and handmade quality to them, both allowing the customer to relate to the product, as well as reignite Britain's proud manufacturing past. The quality and individuality of a screen print cannot be replicated through modern means, which is where we think it holds its appeal."
"All of our prints range from £24 to £60 and are limited edition, as we think that people should have the opportunity to own unique artworks for their homes, offering a viable alternative to the mass produced prints found in many high street stores."
Chase and Wonder is part of growing movement of businesses who want to give consumers every reason to buy British and the 'Made in Britain' tag is becoming ever more desirable. You need only look on sites like www.notonthehighstreet.com to find them in all their glory. Union Jack cushion cover anyone?
Alex Perry works at consumer PR and brand marketing agency be more.... If you think your product, brand, idea or invention could be the next big thing, email email@example.com