No, they don’t have Thanksgiving in the United Kingdom. Maybe they should, since the Brits should feel thankful they rid themselves of the Puritans. One tradition that has creeped across the pond from the U.S., however, is Black Friday: a ritual some probably feel should stay out of Britain. It’s easy to feel exasperation over Black Friday’s emphasis on heavily discounted, shoddily manufactured goods when plenty of products made to last are on the market. Speaking of which, one online business, Made to Last, is connecting consumers to a bevy of manufacturers who craft their wares within the UK.
Calling out consumers to take into account durability, sustainability and the benefits of strengthening local industries, Made to Last is similar in concept to American web sites Locally.com and Etsy. Products are sold via a web site, but the emphasis on small manufacturers and artisans allow users to “buy local.” Made to Last only has a few rules in order for suppliers to sell on its site: products must come with a guarantee, they must be manufactured within the United Kingdom and finally, the products must have utility—no dancing flowers or pet rocks.
Vendors on Made to Last run are all over the map; clothing, furniture, electronics and home products are among the goodies on offer. The site is definitely not for those who have bought into the disposable society: toasters, for example, run about £200 ($313), but again, they come with a three year guarantee. Men’s fashion has some buys not out of range when compared to corporate retailers. T-shirts are priced decently, but the one beanie on offer goes for £75—though in fairness it is made from alpaca, not polyester. Nevertheless, in a society that overall values cheap over craftsmanship, Made to Last will have its challenges as it continues to grow and seek new suppliers.
At a time when too many cheaply made goods end up taking space on shelves or even worse, in landfills, the message Made to Last sends to suppliers and consumers is one we need to take more seriously. Made to Last insists its suppliers are held accountable for its products, therein requiring them to include a manufacturer’s guarantee on all products sold through its site. Furthermore, making a smarter and more responsible buying decision is more than about the quality and ethics of a product.
According to the UK’s Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), buying from small and local businesses has a large role in strengthening local economies. A report the FSB wrote last year claims for every £1 spent with a small- or medium-sized business, 63 pence returns to the local economy; contrast that to the 40 pence that is retained locally when purchasing from a large company. Hence the larger case about buying better, local products: they help build stronger communities and encourage more local entrepreneurs and designers. Sites such as Made to Last face strong headwinds in the retail sector, but offer a compelling long term alternative to the Amazons and Walmarts of the world.
Leon Kaye is based in California and most recently worked for a renewable energy investment company in the Middle East. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter. Other thoughts of his are on his site, greengopost.com.
Image credit: Made to Last
Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.
Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.