The Reaction

In my last Blog I described how our industries collapsed under the threat of low-cost foreign competition, and now I’ll consider if we were ‘innocent bystanders’ in the situation…..or whether we were complicit in our own downfall.

There was of course, some truth in our protestations.

The huge price differentials that were being achieved were in no small part due to the enormously reduced labour rates in the countries that were emerging, and their quality was indeed intermittent in the early days, and there were certainly other ‘hidden’ costs in taking advantage of these reduced unit costs that weren’t immediately apparent, or were considered worth bearing (transportation, increased batch quantities; longer lead times) but these low-cost economies still gained traction and market share.

However, so what if there were a few such problems, there were always other low-cost alternatives to turn to who might prove to be a better alternative!

Even if, over time these cut-price options became slowly, progressively more expensive, which they did as the local market realised it was being exploited and sought to redress the balance, or simply because the suppliers realised that they had knocked out their UK competition and so felt that they could now charge more because they were the ‘only game in town’, and so the price of their goods and services began to creep up, often to a level that made it scarcely worth continuing to use them, because their new, inflated unit prices, allied to the extra ‘hidden’ costs of using a supplier several oceans away, meant it was almost as cheap to have them made back in the UK.


Unfortunately, there were other, newer markets yet to be tapped into, and so when one low-cost economy ceased to be ‘low-cost’, another was sourced, and supply switched to the new cheap alternative.


And what did we do whilst the rest of the world came and stole our industries, our jobs, our futures?


·         Did we at last look at OURSELVES?

·         Did we consider if we were really doing things as well as they could be, as efficiently as they could be, with the customer’s needs ‘front and centre’

·         Did we at last face up to the fact that continually warring up and down our hierarchical structures was corrosive and disastrous

·         Did we at long last realise that we were in fact all on the same team, regardless of whether we wore a necktie, a polo shirt, an overall or a boiler suit?



Of course, we didn’t!

We continued to whinge about ‘them there foreigners’ and watched helplessly as we lurched from one recession to the next, fuelled mainly by our complete inability to be efficient, effective and competitive.

The truth is that we were still in the same complacent mindset we were when the challenge first emerged, and so still hopelessly unable to stand up to the challenge because we simply didn’t think we could.

Nor did we know how to.

Ironically, it was a recession that changed everything……………..