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Buying British: how to spend our way out of recession

Category : Business

From British designers to English apples, patriotic purchasing can help take the sting out of the recession

The news that Britain has dropped into its first double-dip recession since the 1970s, makes us want to batten down the hatches. But that’s not the way to economic recovery.

Avoiding the shops will never bring us out of recession: instead, perhaps the time has come to be more patriotic in our product choices. We’re not talking about buying the plethora of junk available for the royal diamond jubilee (an ice cream scoop in the shape of the Queen’s face, anyone?). But we could consciously buy everyday items made in Britain, such as British groceries, clothes and toys. How about celebrating with an all-British corn beef sandwich (Waitrose £1.90) and English wine?

“When you read reports of a recession, it’s easy to feel disheartened,” says Simon Wells, chief economist at HSBC. “Household budgets are squeezed, and price inflation continues to outstrip wage inflation. However, there’s no point being overly concerned with the latest figures and definitely no reason to panic.”

Might we, as consumers, be able to bring the country out of recession?

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, says: “It’s a fact that if we bought more British goods, we’d limit the imports and that would help the economy. However, it would have to happen on a significant scale for it to make a difference, and only the people who can still afford to spend, without getting into further debt, should be spending.”

A huge shift towards buying British is exactly what those in the manufacturing industry are hoping for. This week, Michael Clarke, chief executive of Premier Foods (which owns Hovis, Mr Kipling and Batchelors) called on Britons to buy British brands.

But consumers don’t seem to know what is British any more. A survey by Stoves, the British manufacturer of cookers, found that half of British consumers don’t know which brands still claim to be made in Britain. This led to the company launching a standard marque for Made in Britain products, an initiative backed by Labour leader Ed Miliband.

It comes at a time when the government is being criticised for not supporting British businesses. A recent study by the British Made For Quality industry alliance found that nine out of 10 of the businesses it represents believes the government is letting down the UK’s smaller manufacturing companies.

Buying British isn’t all about wearing Barbour jackets and motoring round in a Mini. It’s about choosing good-value British basics, from sausages to skincare products, which won’t leave you out of pocket.

Food

Forget olive oil: it’s time to start drizzling British rapeseed oil over your rocket salad. Waitrose reports that British rapeseed oil is the fastest growing oil in its range. It’s even got the Jamie Oliver seal of approval: his new restaurant, Union Jacks, is using Farrington’s rapeseed oil instead of olive oil. Buying British fruit and vegetables is straightforward too. Supermarkets clearly label British produce and if you buy only British fruit and vegetables, you’ll be buying in season, which should keep costs down.

Other supermarket British ranges include: Morrisons selling only 100% British fresh beef, lamb, pork and poultry; Tesco’s Finest range, where the fresh pork, ham, sausages and bacon are all 100% British; and Sainsbury’s, which sells only British chickens and sausages in all of its ranges, year round. The major supermarkets also mainly sell 100% British milk and British own-brand eggs. Sainsburys also uses only British flour in its bakery and sells chillies grown in Lancashire, and Asda has just started a new trial to grow grapes in the UK.

Of course, farmer’s markets and independent food shops can be nicer than supermarkets and for certain products they may also be cheaper, according to the National Farmers Retail and Market’s Association.

“The perception is that farmers markets are more expensive but for fruit, vegetables and eggs, that’s definitely not the case,” says FARMA spokesperson Rita Exner.

Drinks

Britain produces some excellent wines, spirits, real ales and ciders and what better way to toast the jubilee? Picking up British booze from supermarkets is fairly simple: Tesco says its Finest English White 2010 (£8.79) by Denbies Estate Winery in Surrey is very

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