Jack’s recent claim that “Eight out of 10 food and drink products at Jack’s will be grown, reared or made in Britain,” is a clear statement of intent that British is best. Whilst celebrating local UK provenance is nothing new, it’s certainly something a growing number of retailers are capitalising. Trust of certain imported goods is in decline, exacerbated by an uncertain future of international trade, and the environmental virtues of low-carbon product journeys are being exuded.
This UK provenance is taking place in a range of companies, shaping a large proportion of their communications, from the Co-op’s 100% British Meat to Vauxhall’s True Brit. But, in this strive for all things British, could there be a greater opportunity for retailers to differentiate themselves through how they work globally?
There are clearly benefits from an all-British supply chain; it supports the local economy, is a way to put a face or brand on an otherwise faceless, corporate supply chain, and is a seemingly more environmentally friendly way of operating. However, these positives aren’t always clear-cut. Riverside Farm, a Devon-based vegetable box delivery service found that, despite wanting to support year-round local tomato production, it’s actually up to ten times better to truck (not fly) out-of-season peppers or tomatoes from Spain where they do not require heat, than to grow them using heat in the UK. Some modern greenhouses using combined heat and power or possibly biomass boilers may help reduce the disparity, but come nowhere near justifying such avoidable CO₂ emissions and resource use. The benefits of Spain-grown tomatoes go beyond simply tasting better…
Celebrating a global approach to retail also creates an opportunity to make a wider political statement. Britain certainly isn’t the most welcoming place right now, with a 2017 Ipsos MORI study revealing anti-immigration feeling as the main driver of the Brexit outcome. In such a time, many people are looking for leadership to champion a more positive, progressive set of values and, in a void of such leadership, retailers have an opportunity to step up. This is exactly what Jigsaw did with their 2017 OOH takeover of Oxford Circus tube station. The posters were refreshingly direct. “♥ Immigration” was plastered in front of ethnically diverse models against quintessentially British rolling hills and heritage homes. It was a clear statement of the value they saw in a global retailing approach, all supported by their manifesto poster, which read: “There’s no such thing as 100% British.” standing out in dramatic contrast to the multiple cookie-cutter retailers lining Oxford Street.
Humans are fickle creatures; we want locally produced goods whilst demanding the diversity and difference that requires outsourcing abroad. So, rather than focus single-mindedly on the virtues of local goods, could celebrating the benefits of a global approach to retail (from supply chain to political outlook) be a way to stand out from the crowd?