We all love an Australian-made product but interest in local manufacturing has soared in recent months thanks to the pandemic.
With people struggling to import everything from masks to microwaves as supply chains slow down, many Australian manufacturers are seeing an uptick in interest from local consumers. In the construction industry, executive director of the NSW Master Builders’ Association Brian Seidler, says we have long relied heavily on Chinese imports.
“The COVID experience has sparked a discussion that we should be manufacturing more in Australia,” he says. “It is certainly being discussed to transfer sourcing materials from overseas to local manufacture.”
It may come as a surprise to some, but there is still a solid manufacturing base in Australia for building products, from construction materials such as steel, timber and concrete, through to fittings and finishes like stone, hardware and sinks.
Products are made to Australian standards by people being paid Australian wages, so they often cost a bit more.
Architect and host of Grand Designs Australia Peter Maddison says local manufacturers of steel, for example, cannot compete on price and homeowners can be reluctant to pay more.
“When push comes to shove and they want that stainless steel spiral staircase and they are being offered one that is a quarter of the price, then they’re asking themselves ‘what’s wrong with the Chinese product?’,” he says.
For most, he says, simply being asked to “buy Australian” isn’t enough.
“You have to get people connecting with Australian-made design as being unique and something they are prepared to pay a premium for because it is good, and it happens to be made here,” says Peter.
“That has to be it, almost over the top of it being Australian.”
Marc Reed, managing director of bathroomware supplier Candana, says the local product may cost a little more, but it is worth it. His company stocks Brodware tapware, which is designed, engineered and made in Australia.
“Particularly in tapware, Australia is five to eight years ahead of the world market,” says Marc. “Speaking with many of the world largest suppliers at the ISH bathroom fair in Frankfurt last year, they all told me they are looking at the Australian market and what we are doing.
“I now no longer look at Brodware as an Australian leader but that of a world leader in tapware design, engineering and excellence.”
Sandy Hercus, sales and marketing manager for Australian tile manufacturer Sanctuary Makers, says some customers have trouble believing the product is made locally.
“People are so sceptical that it is an Australian product that we’ve decided to move into the retail market so that we can explain that to the customer ourselves,” he says.
They currently have showrooms in Sydney and Melbourne, with plans to open in Brisbane.
For those prepared to ask the questions and buy Australian, Peter Maddison says the rewards are many.
“I have done houses where products are almost all sourced locally and it gives the project a lot of meaning,” he says. “It costs more but it will last longer.”
More: australbricks.com.au candana.com.au; jardan.com.au; loughlinfurniture.com.au; noodco.com.au; sanctuarymakers.com; Grand Designs Australia returns in 2021 on Foxtel’s LifeStyle channel