Article written by Andrew Langley, co-founder of Cesca Gifts.

Reshoring is a term that pops up in business circles. It relates to the movement back to Western economies, of the production of goods, which had previously “offshored”. For many it is about costs, time, or risk, but for us it was about sustainability, heritage, flexibility and values.

Producing in the Far East is no bad thing; indeed some of our products still are. We run an audited factory in China and compliance is hugely important to us and our clients. But over the last few years we have undertaken major investment in the UK to re-establish our UK manufacturing heritage, relearning skills, and training a new generation to understand and cherish the art of making beautiful sewn gifts. Our range is now 70% (and growing) UK made.

Our family’s heritage in the shoe trade, as is our location – Northamptonshire which has a long and rich history of shoe making and leather craft. Most towns in Northamptonshire had multiple shoe factories and by the 1880’s one in four people were involved in the shoe industry. Specialist roles included finishers and clickers. Our grandfathers worked as clickers in the shoe industry and then my father set up a company that supplied key shoe components and specialised in making affordable non-leather look shoes for the mass market.

As I grew up, I saw our successful family business, our industry, and our county decline rapidly, as Chinese and Indian-made shoes flooded into the stores, rendering, in some cases, centuries old businesses redundant. As a young man, I realised that if you could not beat them, join them. I travelled to China, and along with my wife, we started manufacturing PU gifts for corporate users. The business grew and yet so with it, the desire to at some point to try and reintroduce manufacturing back home.

We also wanted to develop our own brand, having previously only produced for others. And so Cesca Gifts was born, named after our daughter and fellow shareholder, Francesca.

So why make in the UK when it is possibly cheaper to make elsewhere? That is a question that we at Cesca Gifts wrestled with when starting out on our journey. For us it soon became clear. We wanted to build a brand that was ethical, produced sustainably and one we could be proud of.

To that end we only supply vegan friendly products, our paper stock is post-consumer waste recycled, and we do not use any plastic in our packaging. Our production is ISO14001 accredited for good environmental management. We offer a biodegradable range, BioD, and a brand new range called Como that is entirely made from recycled plastic bottles. Being UK made, our products have low carbon footprint, and local manufacturing means the energy we use is 47% renewable, a figure way above the largely coal fired power in much of the Far East. 

We also wanted to have control and flexibility, to be able to offer a wider choice of colours and materials so that we could produce to changing demands. We want to offer personalisation and, above all, we want our brand to represent something. We stand for affordable, sustainable, well made and well designed products that celebrate not only where we came from but also where we are going.

By investing in the very best German produced die folding and book binding machinery, along with sewing, cutting and numerous finishing machines, each product is precision made. Cesca is determined to play its part in developing local skills and providing employment to both former shoe workers and new trainees. There are still some products that we cannot make here as yet, which we feel are integral to our range, but our eventual goal is to reach 100% UK made. 

The journey from UK manufacturing heritage, to closure, to China production, to rebirth of UK manufacturing is one which resonates in the wider Northamptonshire community and one we are proud to play our part in whilst doing so in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.