Boris blunders with shower tray trade slip

Trays Trump Brexit

JT’s sales and marketing director John Schofield finds himself setting the record straight on Radio 4 following PM Boris Johnson’s suggestion that shower trays could be one product that will benefit from a post-Brexit trade deal with Donald Trump


Sat at home with the family in the garden enjoying the sun on the last bank holiday of the summer, little did I realise that in a few hours I would be catapulted head first into a Brexit-inspired US trade deal debate with Boris versus Trump posturing for advantage.

But four hours later, in the esteemed iconic company of pork pies, wine, cauliflower, rulers and insurance, that’s just what happened when I appeared live on the coveted BBC Radio 4 World at One show to debate the issues and virtues of the humbly British-manufactured shower tray.

Shower trays being headline news came out of the blue (although it’s about time!) and who would have thought that shower tray regulations and US market access would be chosen to feature in Boris’s pre-Trump trade-deal announcement along with Melton Mowbray pork pies?

While most Brits will have eaten a pork pie, and despite an estimated third of the population standing on a JT tray, I am not sure how many of the general public actually think separately about a shower tray – so any opportunity to bang the drum has to be grasped.

Despite the timing on a sunny bank holiday Monday, any chance to promote your brand is always a good thing in my view, but I was also keen to stress the importance of brand Britain and flying the flag for the innovation quality of all UK manufacturers. It was an opportunity I was keen to grasp and make the most of.

“Who would have thought that shower tray regulations and US market access would feature in Boris’s pre-Trump trade-deal announcement?”

John Schofield, sales and marketing director, JT


The background to the unlikely story was that JT has long tried to follow its export success in Europe and the Middle East into the US market and, true to Boris’s statement, for over five years had lobbied the Department of Trade and Industry [now the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR)] for support. It is true that to date access has not been possible.

The shower tray regulations in the USA are designed to support the old-style high shower trays that were prominent in the UK market 10 years ago. This style of product now accounts for only 5% of the UK market and it was our objective to bring the UK/European style and design to the US market with our JTFusion low-profile tray. The UK market is now 95% low-profile, so the design and technicalities of the product are already proven.

Unfortunately – or fortunately from a PR perspective – it may surprise you to learn that good old Boris had actually got the wrong end of the stick regarding the shower tray issue. It is not about a trade agreement, but it is about their regulations, which are quite frankly archaic in relation to the design of shower trays.

When we tried to challenge their industry regulators on why they haven’t changed in so many years, we found that either they weren’t able or weren’t willing to adapt to allow an imported product into the country.

You may argue that by banging this drum, we are opening up the UK and European market for additional US competition to come over here if the regulations work both ways. Well, bring it on, I say!

We, and our UK manufacturing colleagues, have to be proud of what we do and if we wish to go and challenge others in their own backyard, then we should be confident enough to accept competition in our own market. It is, as a sector, having the ability and confidence to sell our point of difference globally – not just here in our own market.

Making national and global headlines can’t be a bad thing, however when you go to the USA on your holiday, or for work, take a look at the shower tray design and mention to the hotel you may know of a better solution… let’s spread the gospel.

Who knows what will happen over the next few weeks in terms of Brexit and talk of Trump trade-inspired deals.

The moral of the story for me on a sunny bank holiday is: hold off on the cold one and hope for an understanding wife. When BBC Radio 4 and the world’s media come calling for you to referee in the Boris versus Trump trade tirade, you’re going to need a clear head to keep one step ahead of the interviewer and the competition.

For more on this, see comments by Roman’s David Osborne, kbbreview October, pg 30

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