The children’s ride-on suitcase sells in 62 countries but production has been limited to bases in China and the US. That ends this month when the Team GB Olympic suitcase is manufactured for the first time in Britain.
Bristol-based designer Rob Law has long dreamed of bringing production from China back home since he invented the iconic suitcase back in university. His company, Magmatic, now has revenues of more than £6m with a profit of £1m – not bad for a man who was turned away by investors on television’s Dragon’s Den in 2006.
Mr Law’s “eureka!” moment came when he was studying design in university and was asked to design luggage. He couldn’t find much inspiration in the luggage section of his local department store so he wandered into the children’s section and spotted ride-on toys. The rest is history.
“The UK can stand head and shoulders above China, creating really innovative and well engineered products that are more sustainable, ” Mr Law said.
The first British-made Trunki will be the Team GB and London 2012 Olympics suitcases, which will be stamped “Made in England.”
Mr Law employs 23 people at its Bristol headquarters and he will create 15 more manufacturing jobs through a production deal with Inject Plastics of Totnes, which hope to cut production time from 120 days to 30 days.
Despite UK manufacturing being more expensive than in China – the cost of the British-made tooling was six times more than in China.- Mr Law said he expects to offset that by being able to better control costs in the UK.
Chinese labour costs, for example, have tripled in six years and inflation and currency appreciation in China are making the country less competitive.
Mr Laws noted the UK has no grants to help manufacturers like himself to relocate to Britain, however, despite numerous calls by Prime Minister David Cameron asking manufacturers to return to Britain.
Made in Britain
His next goal is to set up an educational programme for young designers and engineers to tour his factory in Devon and head office in Bristol.
While Mr Law plans to keep the manufacturing hubs in China and the US to serve local customers, he hopes that by the end of 2012 100 per cent of Trunki’s UK sales will be products made by Britons in Britain.