The Impact of Country of Origin on Retail and Wholesale Brands in the UK Fashion Industry
A thesis submitted to the University of Manchester for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Science & Engineering, by Arooj Rashid from School of Materials, UoM in 2017.
The wording “Made in UK” is mentioned for 16 times, and “Made in the UK” for 38 times in this thesis.
The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of country of origin (COO) on the UK fashion industry, with specific reference to retail and wholesale brands. In this study, the fashion industry encompasses both manufacturing and branding perspectives. This qualitative study comprised 23 in-depth interviews with key informants from large-scale retailers, manufacturers and textile consultancy companies, thereby analysing the issues from an industry, rather than consumer, perspective. The key informants were chosen using a judgmental sampling approach, and the data obtained were analysed using a thematic approach.
The notion of country of origin is deemed important because the existing literature suggests that COO, has been considered as an effective branding device with which consumers associate when evaluating the quality of the product and when making purchasing decisions. However, no research has examined country of origin from an industry perspective, and the findings in the UK context are limited in the existing literature. Consequently, this study contributes to the body of knowledge about the importance of COO, and its implication on retail and wholesale brands in the UK fashion industry.
The findings of this research also have practical implications for manufacturers and retailers, informing the debate on the value of the ‘Made in […]’ epithet, and how country of origin can be used as a branding strategy.
This study demonstrates that country of origin is considered important in the UK fashion industry in terms of its strategic importance to organisations. Moreover, COO is manifested in different ways, depending on brand positioning, long-term strategic plan, expertise, brand history and values. Another finding that emerged as a key theme is the blurring of retail and wholesale brands. Thus, the study has found that retailers are becoming wholesale-oriented businesses by selling own label products through third party retailers, including online via pure-play retailers (e.g. ASOS), and concessions within department stores. This is being done to expose brands internationally, to develop a global recognition, as well as improve the brand image. Furthermore, wholesale brands are becoming retail-oriented in order to enjoy superior profit margins, to have control over the product merchandise and to increase customer loyalty.
Finally, the study developed a typology of strategic action and implications of country of origin to include the blurring of differences whereby, for instance, brand name is used to promote country of brand origin by both retail and wholesale brands, however, how this manifests itself differs in the sense that retailers promote via sub-brand name, and wholesales have associations with company’s name.
The history of the “Made in […]” theme goes back further with the UK’s Merchandise Marks Act of August 23 1887, making it a punishable offence to apply “any false trade description of goods, including description, statement or other identification, whether direct or indirect, and to clearly state the place of country in which the products or goods were made or produced”