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The state of British manufacturing

Interview with...

Jamie Bentley
CEO of Stephenson Group, parent company of interview's subject company
Business name:
Bentley Organic
Organic personal care products
Trading for:
Two years

Jamie on Brits' and Americans' enthusiasm for British products...

"What struck me, both with the consumer and the retailer, I would have thought there would be more enthusiasm for buying British products in Britain. There's very little, certainly at the retail level, vut when you speak to individual consumers they do say they want to buy British products.

"The crazy thing is, I can go to the States and market these things as British, and people buy them on the basis of their premium perception of Britain."

On the impact of exchange-rate fluctuations...

"Exchange rates have an enormous effect on the business as a whole, particularly the Stephenson Group, because most of what we do is exported. So 18 months ago, when it was two dollars to the pound, it was extremely difficult to sell in the US and in Asia.

"It's critical to us; it can make or break our margin in a year. So it really becomes about the complexities of hedging currencies forwards and making sure you protect yourself as best you can."

On the inadequacy of government support for the sector...

‚Äč"I think too much emphasis is put on the service sector, andwe've seen in the last year that the service sector isn't bullet-proof. The manufacturing industry has suffered but there is an opportunity for it to bounce back.

"One of the biggest issues we face is the various government initiatives to provide financial support, and there's an enormous amount of money out there, if you try to get any of it to develop new products, new technologies - and I'm a great believer that British manufacturing has to be based on fantastic product formulations, great technology, great science and engineering, because we're never going to compete on purely price - to get this money is so buearacratic. And as a small or medium sized business you just don't have the infrastructure to go through all the red tape involved."

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