Thursday, 11 December 2014
Trying to fish out some truths from an ocean of disinformation is usually the big challenge with online research. However anything to do with basketry manufacture is generally quite straight forward because the answer, 90% of the time, is China. But, I was taught, when doing research for my doctorate, that you must assume nothing and never state as fact anything you cannot back up with evidence, which in academic research terms, usually takes the form of a published statement of the fact.
So, my first task, using the information provided on the box, was to check out the name of the brand 'Melinera' and as with most of the 'brand' names in Lidl stores, it turns out that Melinera is just a trademark created by Lidl in 2012 to market a particular type of product. In this case mainly lighting and decorative items including Christmas lights and decorations.
So, the next search was for images of 'straw christmas decorations' and this turned up loads of photos of almost identical boxes, but being sold under lots of different brand names and by lots of companies, at widely varying prices. Some are being marketed as 'Scandinavian Straw Decorations' but everybody knows that 56 straw stars made by anyone in Scandinavia is going to cost way more than 2.99€, so it refers only to the Scandinavian tradition of straw Christmas decorations, rather than the place of manufacture. But, could they be trying to persuade some unsuspecting buyer that it means the latter ? Wouldn't it be more honest to say Scandinavian Style Straw Decorations?
Having seen that the same boxes were being retailed by lots of different companies I now knew that the manufacturer sells the product wholesale, probably at trade fairs. Next search was for 'manufacturers of straw decorations' (which in retrospect I could have started my search with, but it only took me a couple of minutes to get this far!). Very quickly you find yourself at the inscrutable face of Chinese manufacturing where few companies have web sites but are listed on a thousand trade directories that appear to be run by the various regional governments or councils.
It doesn't take more than five minutes however to establish that the biggest and most active company (in terms of international trade fairs) in this field is Dong Guang County LIZE Handicraft CO.,LTD.and the fact they show at the Frankfurt gift fair makes me almost certain they are the ones selling these decorations to Lidl which is, of course, a German company.
Here, in what reads like a Google translation, is Dong Guang County LIZE Handicraft CO.,LTDs own description of what they do.....!
"The main production straw ornaments, the willow product, the product has more than 10000 series several thousand varieties, the modelling is novel, the weaving is fine, the dependable quality, actually the interior decoration, the holiday thing, above the etiquette contact rides the high quality goods. The company is equipped with the artistic exhibit room and has the specialty foreign trade personnel to attend the Guangzhou Export and Import Fair and the Frankfurt fair. The company has the consummation management system, and may act according to different national the standard production to suit the different market the product. "
I love this bit... 'actually the interior decoration, the holiday thing, above the etiquette contact ' ....quoi???? and this isn't bad either... 'the consummation management system' ... the mind boggles!!
My search started because it did not say on the box where the decorations were made and this is the case with most of the basketry that is imported into Europe. How can we make an informed choice about whether we want to buy something that has been shipped half way around the world if we don't have that information? Until we demand that legislation the most obvious option left to us is not to buy any basketry that does not state clearly where it has been made.