Hardware and Building Traders (HBT) members have recently reported a substantial lift in Australian made product sales throughout 2022, with locally-made products rising in popularity across a vast majority of categories.
HBT General Manager for Buying Jody Vella says Australian made products resonate with customers now more than ever – this was particularly the case during the pandemic when sales of locally made products soared after supply chains struggled due to an overreliance on imports.
“Consumers now seek out and actively look for Australian Made products. HBT customers not only seek out the Australian Made logo but also ask team members which products are made locally.”
“Products that display the Australian Made logo are resonating with consumers as well as those products that are produced in Australia but perhaps do not feature the Australian Made logo. Applying for and complying with the Australian Made logo can be a rigorous process, which is fair enough too because it makes a big difference when a business is certified.”
“In saying this, there are many suppliers who are not certified but are still producing locally owned and manufactured products and simply conduct their own marketing. It is so important that local manufacturers market their products as locally made because it resonates with people and the pandemic has brought this sharply into focus. Why not promote what could be your biggest asset?” Mr Vella said.
As Australian made products continue to grow in popularity, Mr Vella says more and more local suppliers are now either looking to increase the percentage of products that are manufactured in Australia or invest in local manufacturing with a plan to move to local production.
Although staffing issues have continued to hamper expansion for some Australian manufacturers, Mr Vella says expanding local production facilities has become more of a viable option as Australian consumers actively support local businesses now more than ever.
Another aspect that is driving a return to local production is the inability for suppliers to conduct audits of overseas factories, which has been, and to some extent still is being hampered by travel restrictions.
“Suppliers have always been aware of the importance of ethical sourcing and most, if not all suppliers conduct comprehensive audits of overseas factories before they begin to do business with them. Pre-pandemic it was so easy to just hop on a plane to China and conduct an audit when visiting a factory.”
“Over the past two years this has become increasingly difficult or impossible to do as you need your people to be on the ground conducting the audit. For this reason the attractiveness of local manufacturing is growing and for some suppliers has been the deciding factor in relocating manufacturing to Australia,” he said.
Australian made products also continue to grow in popularity amongst trades and builders as most, if not all, prefer to use only high-quality materials and tools on site.
“In my opinion, Australian made products have never been associated with the connotation of being poor quality. I think anyone who has bought a locally made product knows the quality is, in most cases, outstanding. I also believe consumers are aware of this and coupled with the desire to support local jobs and local manufacturing, are gravitating more to locally made products,” he said.
HBT’s member feedback during the group’s recent town hall meetings also indicates that locally-made products are gaining momentum in-store.
“We have run town hall meetings around the country since June and the topic of Australian made, supplied and produced products was raised in most meetings. It is something that is resonating with consumers which is why HBT is looking to increase its share of local suppliers,” he said.
“When HBT meets with a new supplier one of the first questions we ask is if they manufacture here, what proportion of their manufacturing is local and if they have any plans to expand their local manufacturing or transfer their manufacturing from overseas to local.”
It seems that the ongoing popularity of locally made products is not expected to dissipate any time soon. Mr Vella says that while the pandemic was a difficult time, there were a number of positives that came out of it including the heightened recognition of Australian owned and made products.
“This popularity will only increase and I still maintain that those companies that invest in Australian workers and manufacturing will reap the benefits for a long time to come. I really think we could be witnessing the second coming of the Australian manufacturing industry. It was on its knees in the 80s and 90s but the early 2020s will be known as the time when Australian manufacturing re-emerged and began to thrive again,” Mr Vella concluded.