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Debenhams in 'Fake it British' campaign shocker

Retail giant promotes new Made in Britain range with product made overseas

Debenhams Made by Great Britons

Fake it British: The offending image from Debenhams showing a product made overseas with a ‘Made by Great Britons’ label on

This week British department store Debenhams announced that it was developing a new range for its stores that supported British manufacturing. Entitled ‘Made by Great Britons’, the range of British made goods are all to be displayed with a specially designed swing ticket to show how the retailer is flying the flag for UK production.

Normally I applaud anything that helps to support our factories here in the UK, but something about this latest announcement by Debenhams to sell products made in Britain seemed a little suspect.

For a start, the high street giant, which to the best of my knowledge currently sources nearly all of its products offshore, has called for UK suppliers to proactively get in touch so that Debenhams can ‘revitalise the UK clothing industry’. Why put out a press release asking suppliers to contact them when Debenhams has a sourcing department that would normally do this sort of thing? Is it because they have realised that they have missed the boat a little on the wave of interest around British-made goods brought on by the Jubilee and Olympics this year? Is it also because John Lewis have been (quietly) championing UK manufacturers for over a year now? OK, let’s not be cynical, I’m sure it is just because they really feel that our clothing factories here are worth saving, despite having been one of the first to abandon these shores for cheaper labour costs overseas.

To tie in with the announcement Debenhams released a photograph of the new Made by Great Britons range, showing the label on a gold sequinned scarf. Hmmm, I know a lot about sourcing products from all over the world, and I know what our capabilities are in the UK these days, and sewing on sequins like that is definitely not one of them. So I put out a call to Debenhams via Twitter, saying that I didn’t know of ANY factory in the UK that sews on sequins like that but that I would love to be proved wrong. The reply from Debenhams was as follows:

Debenhams Tweet

Rather misleading, wouldn’t you say? Why show it on a product at all if that is the case? Would you put the packaging for a new range of vegetarian sausages on a packet of pork bangers and say ‘we are just showing what they are going to look like? No, because it is likely to mislead and  cause offence to your customers. It is for exactly this reason that there should be clear guidelines around what can be promoted as Made in Britain and how it should be clearly labelled, ideally with a national ‘one for all’ logo that can only be displayed (or photographed) on products that have genuinely been made in Britain.

On a final note, in the press release announcing their new Made by Great Britons range Debenhams wrote: ‘Debenhams today announced it is helping to boost the economy by ramping up its use of British manufacturers’. What does ‘ramping up its use’ exactly mean? What percentage of their production will this actually be? And what long term commitment will they have to these new UK suppliers if they can’t even be bothered to use a British made product in their promotional material? Shudder to think…



  1. minnie on December 14, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Hmmm. I bought a T**co Made In Britain T Shirt and it made me suspicious. Didn’t wear well at all. Maybe they are all trying to rubbish British manufacture by cheating like this. I am sure it is widespread, there only interest is in making huge profits .

    • on December 14, 2012 at 10:55 am

      Hi Minnie
      I wasn’t even aware that Tesco had made in products in Britain – and like you say, seems a little suspicious. I would imagine that they bought the T-Shirt in the Far East and PRINTED it in England. Would love to be proved wrong…

  2. Paul on December 15, 2012 at 5:15 am

    I also get annoyed with Jack Wills – their tag line ‘Fabulously British’.
    What part of their goods are made in Britain, they were made in Portugal and have now moved production to China.
    I think this is very misleading to the consumer and have lost track of the amount of times people have said to me Jack Wills is made in England its Fabulously British. While im at it Lyle & Scott have a following similar that presume all is made in Scotland – again I think you will find nearly everything is made in China, just a few pieces are made in Scotland. They have Scotland on the neck label, not made in Scotland just Scotland! When you look at the care label they are made in China.
    Again misleading and in my mind shouldnt be allowed to happen.

    I would love for you to do a piece on these brands too.


  3. Steven on January 2, 2013 at 10:16 pm

    I like the Fake it British idea…the high street is awash with stuff that looks at first glance to be British made, yet has really originated in China. Jack Wills is definitely misleading folk with their fabulously british strapline, but I complained to the ASA and they weren’t particularly interested. I agree with you Paul, a piece on fake British goods would be interesting, and would put the spotlight on those masquerading as something they are not!

  4. […] Debenhams in ‘Fake it British’ Campaign Shocker At the end of the year retail giant Debenhams announced that it was looking for British suppliers for its new ‘Made by Great Britons’ range – but promoted the campaign with a product made overseas. Whoops! Fake it British strikes again. […]

  5. Leonard McNeill on January 15, 2013 at 9:23 am

    What I would like to see is Trading Standards being more pro-active where the larger stores are concerned rather than picking on the small fish at the likes of car boot sales.

  6. Rae Stevens on January 16, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    I believe Debenhams made-to-measure curtains are made in Germany I may be wrong!
    We make all our curtains in Britain I have asked and all the fabrics come from abroad.
    Even if fabric is from abroad as my team and I make everything here does that mean I can call it British-made.

  7. Alan Gardiner on January 11, 2020 at 1:23 pm

    Misleading to say the least…Debenhams should be ashamed of it’s claims of Made in Britain on some of it’s clothing range. The public are aware most of Debenham’s clothing range are sourced from cheap over-seas suppliers but then sell their clothing range at grossly inflated prices. It’s time the Trading Standards took action against such false claims.

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