Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Very British Coup!

Burberry’s polo shirts currently originate in a south Wales factory, where they are made for £5, so that they can retail in the stores at 12 x that; a good return? One would think so, but no, Burberry, that quintessential English brand wants to relocate its manufacturing base to China. Having been stripped of all industry, 300 workers now face losing their jobs, many without transport to take them elsewhere.

A campaign against the closure has been running for 3 months, but the national press are paying attention now because the actor Ioan Gruffudd has got involved. Having taken part in an advertising campaign, he was reluctant to look a gift horse in the mouth, but has been persuaded.

Any tales of human woes or hardship is unlikely to sway Burberry's chief executive, Angela Ahrendts, so the campaign is based on the company’s very British reputation. Senior GMB officer Mervyn Burnett thinks that Burberry is uniquely vulnerable to the campaign he is running & I think he could be right. I am going to make no apologies for lifting the essence of this from The Guardian which reports that Burnett had told the company from the start “if you close this factory we're out to damage your image and damage the company's reputation” people “… want the 'Made in Britain' label." He doesn't think "Made in Beijing" will have quite the same appeal.

Ahrendts's annual salary, he says, is £3.6m; the entire redundancy payout for the Rhondda workforce, if the closure goes ahead, will amount to £1.8m. Burnett also estimates that the Burberry directors receive £15m to £18m a year. Burberry is very sensitive to the suggestion that closing the Rhondda factory suggests a withdrawal from the UK; Burnett's "Made in Beijing" jibe has struck a nerve. "We are a British brand and have a strong UK manufacturing facility," insists Mahony. "We account for 600 other manufacturing jobs in the UK, and the Rotherham factory would have closed if we hadn't acquired it in 2004. Most other British brands stopped manufacturing in the UK years ago. We are here to stay."

Methinks thou doth protest too much & I really wonder how long being here to stay will last? You can tell Burberry what you think feedback@burberry.com now that you know about it!

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