While in Mt Maunganui on holiday recently, I bought a dress. It was purchased with an occasion in mind – a wedding in October – and matched the criteria I try to adhere to when buying something: New Zealand designed and made.
I adopted this approach a number of years ago and have found that sometimes this lofty aspiration works out and sometimes it doesn’t. So why do I opt to buying locally made goods when I can? The answer is simple. I believe that by choosing to buy products made here, I am doing my bit to support the New Zealand manufacturer. I should say at this point, my contribution to this worthy cause is negligible, as no one in their right mind would ever accuse me of being a big spender.
Expanding on my rather simplistic rationale, I do believe that purchasing NZ made is good for the economy as it provides employment*, ensures a labour force with a diverse skill base, and reduces the country’s reliance on imports. Indeed, our trade deficit with those rather large figures is not something to be proud of.**
As a general comment I have found NZ products to be well made, and I guess if they are not, I have the capacity to easily hunt the manufacturer down and have a conversation. Sure, in some cases it may cost more to buy things made here than the imported equivalent, but as far as I am concerned, the benefits far outweigh the slightly lighter purse that can result.
For the consumer, establishing whether something is made here can be problematic however. This happened with the man’s bike. With the best of intentions, we purchased a NZ made bike. The tag line on the company’s website site said ‘ a world class bike from New Zealand’ , so we presumed it was made here. It wasn’t. It transpired that most, if not all, of the componentry was manufactured offshore. The only construction taking place in Aotearoa was the assembly. A lesson learned.
Now as every girl knows, if you buy a dress, especially one that was significantly marked down, it is obligatory to get new shoes. Needless to say, I wanted heels made in NZ. I hit the internet. At no stage did I think finding a suitable pair would be an issue, after all I had managed to source NZ made gumboots at a chain store (no free advertising in this post, folks) and my scruffy slippers were proudly made here too.
I was wrong. Yes, there are some NZ shoe manufacturers, but the range of shoes on offer was limited and not what I was looking for. This woman was not going to give up though. I resorted to contacting people I know who have shoe fetishes – they would hold the knowledge I thought. And they did, but it was not the answer I wanted. Apparently there is a dearth of footwear manufacturers on our shores now and what is here, I had found. I was stymied. I was going to have to resort to option two: buy shoes which have been manufactured in a country with robust and fair labour laws. Although not ideal, this is my go to default.
Every story should have a happy ending or at least an upside, I think. And this one does. I may not be able to buy suitable NZ made shoes for the wedding, but the man will have no such problem, providing he gives the size 12 stilettos a miss and chooses lace ups instead.
*Sadly, there is often a devastating economic and social impact on local communities in NZ when the main industry in the area closes down or decides to go offshore.
**When I first drafted this post, I found myself drifting into the areas of sweat shops and carbon footprints. I also shared my thoughts on supporting firms in NZ who have been found to have unethical and sometimes illegal working conditions. Although I don’t want to deflect from or downplay the seriousness of any of this, I edited this section out as I felt this blog was not the platform to air it. Suffice to say, I do my best to buy responsibly.