With international manufacturing markets being thrown into uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, General Manager of Adina Watches, Grant Menzies, believes there has never been a better time to shine a spotlight on the capabilities of Australian businesses than right now.
As one of the nation’s oldest watchmakers, Adina has always been advocates for home-soil manufacturing. With Australian manufacturing employment rates falling by 5.4% over the past year due to a shortage of skills alone, Mr Menzies believes there lies a golden opportunity for Australia to reconsider foreign outsourcing when the time comes to nurse our economy back to health.
Adina Watches has been humbly hand-crafting watches from their Brisbane factory since 1971, distributing to over 300 retailers nationally and world-wide.
Over the decades, they’ve seen a financial crisis or two, and have some tried and true insights into how Australians can support small businesses in their time of need.
Mr Menzies says that in these tough times, it’s all about helping each other out, and looking for viable solutions that could revive our economy without having to rely so heavily on foreign manufacturing, should a crisis like this ever come around again.
In the interview below, Mr Menzies goes into detail about Adina Watches as a company, their choice to keep manufacturing within Australia, his views on the COVID-19 economic impact and much more.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic throwing international manufacturing markets into uncertainty, do you think now is the time to shine a spotlight on bringing certain manufacturing production back to home soil?
Absolutely, we have always been huge advocates for home-soil manufacturing, and have done so for almost 50 years.
My Dad, Bob Menzies, founded Adina back in 1971 and was inspired to do so by the imports that were being brought into the country back during the Vietnam War. He would speak with the retailers back then and found out that a lot of soldiers were coming home and selling hundreds of affordable and reliable Japanese watches they had bought overseas with their duty pay checks.
Aside from being able to have better control of our quality, the future of Australian trade skills is one of the reasons why we have kept our business in Australia after all these years. It would be very easy to have all our components shipped to an assembly house in China, negating the training and employment we provide the community – and that has never resonated stronger than today, considering the current climate.
How about the impact on Australian jobs?
It will be a tough few months, that’s for sure, our Prime Minister has made that clear. However, I think the silver lining in all of this is, again, the need to highlight how important it is to create more Australian jobs, so we can depend on ourselves more and create new jobs for our skilled workers.
Do you think we will see a rise in the ‘Australian Made Australian Grown’ logo across production?
100% – I can’t wait. It’s what Adina’s ethos has always been about – every one of our watches is a little piece of Australia. It’s the feeling you get when you see the Qantas tail at an international airport, or you see a pair of RM William boots being worn by a wanderluster overseas – Australian made reflects pride in who we are and our unique heritage.
There has also been research to suggest that our national consumers have a preference for purchasing genuine Australian products. Have you seen evidence of this in your business experience?
Yes, the biggest reason why we have held strength in a market that is influxed by foreign brands, is because we are a product that is specifically made for Australians. Our watches have been handcrafted to withstand the rigours of the Australian environment. You would be hard pressed to find a farmer that does not have at least one of our watches. There is many industries and individuals for which we have developed an Australian made, practical watch that goes above and beyond, from nursing, to mining and corporate. All are designed with an Aussie mindset.
What have been some of the benefits of having the Brisbane factory?
Brisbane is the best of both worlds – the hustle and bustle of the big smoke paired with the peaceful tranquillity of the regions. We gain the perspective of all Australians from our Brisbane hub and what specifically they look for in a timepiece – then we craft it for them. From our Brisbane base we distribute to 300 retailers nationally!
What are the downsides to not having international manufacturing outsources?
Of course you can find cheaper ways overseas, but it’s the benefits in the long-run that seriously outweigh this – homeland job security and economic support.
How has the Adina Watches business survived through decades of financial crises?
We pride ourselves on our relationships within the community and have an incredible connection with our retailers – supporting each other through the hard times, is what has always gotten us through.
We have 300 or so retailers that sell our products nationally and I am proud to say that I know each of them personally! Actually, my wife says I’m the only man in the country that could walk into any town in Australia and borrow $100 on a handshake. That’s the strength of our partnerships and I guess, it’s the ethos that many Australians live by and you have to respect that.
From the independent watchmaker who service the everyday person on the street to the high-end luxury jewellers, we have always respected the pivotal role that retailers play in connecting consumers with Adina Watches and it’s that support network that is so important for a business to build. You help each other out, just like you would a neighbour in need.