Where would 83% of Aussies prefer to buy their products?
When local design guru, Ken Cato, sketched out the Australia Made logo on the back of a scrap of paper, the world was a much different place. It was the mid-80s: China was barely a thing, Madonna was top of the charts and, strangely, Apple had a clothing line.
However, the mark – still used to promote Australian products some 30 years later – was tapping into a fear that imports would destroy our balance of trade and that everything made overseas was inferior.
Populism leads the way
Fast forward to 2017 and the world is a very different place. However, research by Fairfax suggests that there is a strong desire to buy locally despite the fact that after three decades, comparatively little manufacturing is done in Australia.
According to the report, 83 percent of Australians have a preference for less reliance on imports… and only six percent felt the balance was right. This is a fascinating result that may say more about the current political environment than any strong desire for the auto-industry to return to past glories, or for Bonds to start making their undies in Wangaratta.
Hipsters lead the way
One area where ‘buying local’ has gone from strength-to-strength is the food and wine sector. In the 80s, white-collar workers leaned on the bar with a Heineken or some Absolut vodka. These days, there’s more likely to be gripping onto a beer that was brewed merely blocks away, or enjoying a gin made with wattle as a botanical.
So, in light of the Fairfax study, is this a fringe market or a sign of the way that buyers are going? Perhaps it is a combination of the two, and there is a middle way – where Australian manufacturers find a simple and streamlined path to customers - that harnesses the nationalistic shift towards local business.
As mid- and large-scale retailers shiver in their Chinese-made boots ahead of Amazon’s launch later this year, smaller retailers a seeing a whole new way to attract buyers that also provides an efficient distribution channel.
By running their own shop-fronts within the Amazon platform, smaller labels can get equal access to a massive market and price according to the quality of the garment and originality of the design. This concept applies to other industries outside of fashion. In fact, any form of local manufacturing can benefit from this new business environment.
Disruption won’t stop here
As we cast an eye back the 80s, one thing is clear: change is the new normal, and there is no sign of the rate of change slowing down anytime soon. It will be up to manufacturers and retailers to anticipate the direction of the market, and how to best position themselves to take advantage of new channels and platforms.
Simply bunkering down and ignoring global change is not the solution. A lack of completion inevitably results in products that are of a lesser quality but at a higher price.
While we might all like the idea of the Australia Made logo being stamped on everything see buy, the reality is that local industries need to play to their strengths and anticipating the direction their buyers are going.