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Great British Companies and Brands

Introduction to Quintessentially British Companies and Brands

The British Companies we have selected to feature on Browzz.uk are not necessarily the biggest (although a couple are to be found in the world’s top 500 companies by turnover). What distinguishes them is their heritage as British brands, their inventiveness and their leadership within the markets they serve. Some of these companies are still fledglings in relative terms, only established since the turn of the century, such as the Cambridge Satchel Company, launched as an idea off the back of the Harry Potter books and entertainment company Mind Candy, but both appeal to the new millennial markets. At the other end of the spectrum are the companies founded centuries ago as small family businesses using craftsmens' skills to create high quality products. Arthur Price cutlery, Bronnley soap and toiletries and Wedgwood ceramic tableware are all iconic British brands. The survivial of these old companies through periods of exceptional economic and social change and competitive global challenges should be case studies in themselves. Some have expanded their manufacturing processes to facilities abroad or even outsourced them to other companies under arrangements to ensure quality control and standards. Ultimately the appeal of these companies’ products are in the quality of design and materials which enables them to keep pace with evolving markets and is also testament to the on-going appetite for Brtitish heritage products around the world. The awarding of Royal Warrants are a further credential which have stood these companies in good stead in terms of their appeal both at home and abroad.

British companies occupy a large niche in the motoring industry and amongst our British companies we have featured the makers of luxury motor cars and sports cars; lightweight sports cars, and motor car mass producers. Most of these, like Morgan Motor Company have a heritage that goes back to the earliest motoring history and have successfully navigated the changing trends and tastes of motor car design by understanding what makes their customers tick. This might be achieved by merger and economies of scale, or at the other end of the spectrum by retaining their appeal to exclusivity and enthusiasts. The car industry has been through a period of tumultuous change and some manufacturers have fallen into receivership only to be rescued by new foreign owners. Nevertheless the brands that made them famous in the first place continue to be invested in with the heritage of the marques such as Rolls Royce Motors and Bentley being held in such high esteem by their markets.

Morgan Motor Company

Attribution:   Stuart Allen, Pixabay, CC0 1.0

With a history built on ground-breaking engineering, aviation and exploration, BAE systems dominates the sector today as one of the world's biggest companies. Its heritage includes massive and world leading manufacturing projects from Concorde to battlecruisers and submarines as well as the commercial development of radio and has therefore played a fundamental part in the work of Brtitain’s armed forces. With BAE Systems supplying critical avionics products to more than 100 commercial and military customers around the world and with Rolls Royce supplying more than 13,000 engines currently in service to the jet industry, most recently powering the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A350 aircraft in 2016, millions of consumers unwittingly rely upon these companies every year. These companies share both credentials of scale and the brand values attached to both them as trusted innovators.

The demise of traditional British manufacturing industries in the face of global competition is well documented, output having fallen from a third in the 1950s to only 11% of the GDP today, as is the rise of the service industy sector on which the British economy has been most reliant in recent history with banks, financial services companies and retailers dominating the ‘big companies’ list. Many of the companies that had been household names throughout the 20th century have been sold to foreign firms. Indeed some no longer exist at all.



The state of British industry should not be judged only on this brief assessment. Less appreciated is the fact that Britain has a rich historic seam of inventiveness. A Japanese study by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry of national inventiveness showed that Britain had produced 55% of the world’s significant inventions, which is completely out of proportion compared to the size of the country. Though Britain has not been especially good at commercialising them in the past, it is such design innovation that is the driving force of successful British companies today. Whether that is in familiar domestic products and appliances such as those made by Dyson, or public transportation coachbuilders such as the fleets made by Wrightbus or the more exclusive luxury motor boats made by yachtmaker Sunseeker. These are the companies that are best fulfilling the brand values most trusted and consistent with British heritage and exploiting the national trait for inventiveness and innovation for which the British should be better known.

In 2016 Britain voted to leave the European Union in a referendum and significant corporate decisions are being determined by the effects of this change such as the cost of doing business internationally and the timetable for change. Nevertheless, company initiatives to launch new products and invest in serving their markets are still going ahead irrespective of the renegotiations that will be needed over the rules governing trading relations between Britain and other countries around the world. The most innovative and entrepreneurial companies will take advantage of the situation to grow exports against the background of a weaker pound. Most of Britain’s top companies already operate internationally and these companies will lead the way in global trade. Investment in research and development and the stimulus brought about by adversity will most likely lead to greater entrepreneurship, a quality readily identifiable in the recently produced list of Britain's largest private companies as measured by sales.

According to Fasttrack.co.uk a higher proportion of Britain's top 100 private companies than ever before are now owned and led by their founders or members of their families, Sir Richard Branson of Virgin and James Dyson the most well known among them. Some notable British companies are owned by their employees, such as retail giant John Lewis, and their success continues to support the and contribute to Britain’s economy.

'Companies are not ingenious, it's the people in them that are' - James Dyson

Please browse our gallery of selected great British Companies above for inspiration, and click on each of the images to find more useful information and links to help you find out about each one.