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Still The Last Man Standing?


William Say & Co has been manufacturing in the heart of London since 1930, and a lot has changed since my great grandfather’s (and grandfather’s) time.


Growing up I was very aware that we were known to many as the ‘last man standing’ when it came to producing in central London, and that while this was something to be rightly proud of, it was of some concern to the family too.


Since I joined the company five years ago though, any such concerns on my part have been greatly outweighed by the enormous opportunities presented by our last man standing status; not least as both consumers and businesses increasingly look to the provenance of their purchases and want ‘homegrown’. Far from being a concern, our perceived status as a sole provider of local, home produced manufacturing is, I believe, one of our greatest assets. 


It’s somewhat ironic when I show UK retailers around our shiny, newly refurbished site, and they comment how sad it is that there are not more companies like this left in the UK, asking ‘what happened to them all?’.


Well I have to be honest and point out how over the past few decades, short-term cost benefits saw many retailers opt to source their tins from the other side of the planet. Many of the UK’s smaller independent firms have been casualties of the move and a number of  mid size companies were consumed into just a handful of large European and global entities.  This does go some way to explaining how William Say’s stoic stance has made it now such a unique business in the UK.


It’s important to appreciate the full extent to which buyers hold the key to UK investment in their selection of future spending. Company structures that financially reward lower unit prices, regardless of wider scope financial and environmental costs, can be very damaging to the UK.


Also, as the pace of business across the planet accelerates faster than any other generation, people want immediate yes/no answers. Lengthy NPD discussions are rarely on the agenda as we all fight the clock each day.


This clearly doesn’t lend itself to investment in new services and products.  Often customers want something completely new, but time constraints mean that they have to buy ‘off the shelf‘, and the man with the biggest catalogue wins.  Sadly, the companies with the widest choices are rarely UK manufacturers, more often importers or agents for overseas manufacturers.


We have worked hard to develop long-term relationships with customers in order to develop and invest in supplying unique metal packaging. It’s something that has worked really well for all parties, and has often saved time and money – there is a lot to be said for clear direct communication with your supplier, and an ability to work to short lead times. People are seeing the true value of this more each day.


Plus there a growing appetite for home produced goods: independent shops are generally flourishing and the EU referendum has turned the spotlight on ‘Buying British’ once again.  We’re delighted to be the last man standing in this respect.






















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