A timely report in the middle of the toy-buying season came from law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain. It said that the number of recalled products reached an all-time high in the UK in 2007, with 192 separate incidents. This was up 22 percent compared to 2006. Of course, not all of these were for toys—they included electrical goods, food, drinks, and pharmaceuticals as well.
Unfortunately for every industry that outsources to the Far East, China was the source of many of the consumer products that had to be recalled, and I have read some reports that suggested that a "Made in China" label was becoming a warning to consumers.
This may well feel like it could be good news for home-based manufacturers—as some unions have suggested—but the reality is that a certain level of manufacturing that has disappeared from Europe is never going to come back. And at its best, Chinese-produced
The bigger problem surrounding Chinese-produced goods is price inflation, as both raw material and energy costs rise at the same time as the country's less reputable manufacturers are losing their export licenses.
If the cost of Chinese products rises to such an extent that they are no longer low-cost, yet they still carry the disadvantage of distance—and with energy costs rising, there will be an effect on transportation—where does that leave the consumer products supply chain?
And this year has already got off to an unfortunate start: Mothercare's Early Learning Centre has recalled its own brand face paints because of their lead content.
John Lewis Sweeps the Board
John Lewis not only wowed the UK's retail analysts with its great Christmas trading figures in January, but also came out on top of a Verdict Research consumer survey on customer satisfaction.
Verdict quizzed 6,000 consumers on different retailers' range, price, convenience, quality, service, ambience, facilities, and layout to create its Consumer Satisfaction Index 2008.
John Lewis Partnership took the top two places. John Lewis department stores, which had the highest score for customer service, and the premium supermarket Waitrose were ranked Nos. 1 and 2, swapping places since last year. At No. 3 came homewares retailer Dunelm.
It's interesting that the list contains so many international retailers—some holding their ranking from last year, while Avon and Gap jumped nine and 10 places respectively.
For a young fashion retailer, H&M places surprisingly high in a survey that looks at service as one of its criteria.
But like all statistics, it is as well to read both the recall report and Verdict's with caution. Were the market researchers standing outside John Lewis stores when they questioned shoppers? What was the geographical spread? And what is the law firm's particular interest in product recalls?
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