Has The Tide Turned? – Trade Review – Coal, Iron & Steel, Brass, Glass, Soaps & Oils

November 1931

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 20 November 1931

Has The Tide Turned?

Can we bring back to the silent factories and workshops, to the derelict pits and shipyards, to the cloistral calm of our trading centres, activity for stagnation, prosperity for insolvency, work for idleness? Smokeless chimneys, rusting machines, silent “hives of industry” are typical scenes of this phase of depression of which, it is hoped, we have at last reached the end. At least, there is a strong note of hope ringing through the replies we have received to an inquiry we have made this week among industrialists, manufacturers, distributors and traders in South Yorkshire.

In summary, the burden of their replies is that the result of the election has brought a new confidence, and a definite stirring of the comatose body of industrial interests. The mandate has been conclusively given, and the first indication of its implementing was given in Parliament in Mr. Runciman’s announcement of the Government’s intention to introduce a measure designed at a stroke to free British industry and trade from one of its chief handicap, unlimited foreign competition with goods produced under conditions which stack all the cards against the British producer. The “Anti-Dumping” Bill is to impose duties—”up to 100 per cent. if need be” —on that class of goods which unemployed British workmen are ready to make at home, and which the under-worked home market is ready to dispose of.

The Bill will not touch food stuffs, raw materials and goods mainly unmanufactured. But among those to which it will apply are many upon which the industrial health of South Yorkshire very heavily depends directly; and to an even larger extent indirectly, because of the inter-locked interests of the coal trade with these trades.

Among the articles which are to be subjected to the duties are:—

Coke and manufactured fuel.
Cutlery, hardware, implements and instruments.
Silk and other textiles.
Chemicals, drugs and dyes.
Oils, fats and resins.
Paper and cardboard.
Electrical goods and apparatus.

It is something definite of this sort, apparently, that the powers that be in industry are waiting for, according to the replies we publish below to our questionnaire on trade prospects. But already there is more tangible justification for the hope expressed in most of those replies. The demands for steam coal, and. for coal, for instance are showing a significant upward tendency; a pointed proof of the immediate repercussions on South Yorkshire’s basic industry—coal—of even the slightest stirring of general industry towards renewed. activity.

Perhaps we may take it as a heartening Christmas message, that a gleam is at last breaking through the good name cloud of depression which has haunted the area so long.

Can we Change this?

The Coal Trade.

Manvers Main.—Mr. G. E. Adey, Sales Manager;

Generally speaking, we are fully sold. Owing to greater activity in the Lancashire cotton mills we are experiencing more pressure for supplies there: and there is also an improved demand in the West Riding manufacturing. areas. Currency depreciation has certainly given us better powers of quoting in the foreign market, but that is nullified to some extent by price fixation under the British coal owners’ marketing scheme.

Denaby, Cadeby & Maltby Group: Mr. H. Hulley, Agent:

There is no present indication of substantial improvement in the coal trade, nor any evidence of increased foreign demand on account of currency depreciation.

Hickleton Main. — Mr. J. Minnikin, General Manager.

There is an increased demand for steam coal, which is a good sign. It is not merely a seasonal fluctuation. We read of a blast furnace here and there resuming, and that means a trend in the right direction. We are mainly interested in the inland trade, and what we need now is an increased demand for home coal, which, of course, will not occur while the present weather holds.

Wath Main.—Mr. H. G. Cauwood, Sales Manager:

There is a better feeling, but I think industry is waiting to see what the Government will do. People are waiting before they buy big stocks, but the demand for steam coal for home industries is improving, and the demand for coke is getting very strong. That is because we are now able to compete with foreign pig-iron, owing to currency depreciation, which has added considerably to the price of the imported pig-iron. The home coal trade is bad, on account of the unpropitious—from a coal salesman’s point of view —weather, but generally speaking there is a trade improvement.

Newton Chambers & Co., Ltd., Chapeltown.—Mr. W. Newton Drew, Chairman of Directors:

The prospects in coke are good and the demand is rapidly increasing from the recent complete slump level. The coal trade is still rather sluggish, largely owing to the continued mild weather, hut the liveliest hopes are entertained that the Government’s fiscal policy will shortly bring new life into this long-suffering industry.

In the iron works, business is still very difficult to obtain and we live chiefly on hope at present. The popularity of our Izal disinfectant continues to extend steadily.

The currency depreciation has brought a slight benefit, but not to any substantial extent at present. The anti-dumping measures will help enormously, especially in regard to steel products. The fall in the value of the £ should help us in our disinfectant business.

Soaps And Oils.

C. Stanley & Son, Ltd., Wath.—Mr. Dewsbury:

There is a slight improvement. We are connected with the textile industry—woollens particularly—in business transactions, and we find that slowing a slight upward tendency. Things are steadily improving, and we anticipate that they will be much brighter in the near future,


Yorkshire Amalgamated Products, Ltd., Doncaster:

There are no indications at the moment of an improvement in the building trade, but naturallv it would be one of the first trades to feel the effects of a recovery from depreciation.

Iron and Steel.

Bakers & Bessemer, Ltd.—Mr. George Baker, Managing Director.

There is very little sign of industrial impetus at present. My own feeling is that whatever move there is, is purely due to the replenishing of stocks which have got very low. Currency depreciation is making some difference : we are getting preferences in India, but unfortunately India is buying little at present. We are also feeling benefits in South Africa, but there, too, the orders are small.            ,

Hattersley Bros., Swinton.

All that one can really say at present is that there is no general improvement so far. There is certainly greater confidence and more inquiries, but everyone will have to wait before there is anything in the nature of a rapid or marked improvement. In my opinion the improvement will be slow, but it will be sure.

Gummers, Ltd., Valve Manufacturers, Rotherham. — Mr. George Gummer, Jun., Managing Director:

Business is picking up slightly after a long period of slackness and it has been possible to employ a few more men. There has been increased confidence since the election, and inquiries have been more numerous. Prospects are much brighter than for some time; but we have a long way to go yet and. people must not expect an immediate return to prosperity. The outlook is much more hopeful.

Regarding the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Bill, the brass trade will receive some benefit under the non-ferrous metals and manufactures section, but the firms manufacturing goods for water users are already fairly well protected as they must have a licence for the manufacture of such goods, and those licences are not issued to foreigners. On the general run of work it will undoubtedly have an effect on the impartation of foreign goods—which is fairly extensive—but to what extent we cannot say.

Yates, Haywood & Co., Ironfounders, Rotherham.—Mr. A P. Harrop, Managing Director:

Ours is essentially a home industry, confined exclusively to British manufactures, and we have been in the fortunate position of having worked full time during the last 12 months. Prospects are exceedingly good, and in. anticipation of a general improvement in trade we have carried out extensive improvement in trade we have carried out extensive improvements with a view to increasing output and bringing our works up-to-date. Speaking generally, the stove grate industry in Rotherham is busier to-day than it has been for a number of years. This is largely due to the important part played by local manufacturers in the speeding up of transport. Practically 90 per cent of the output goes by ‘road straight from the works to the consumer, thereby saving time and minimising the risk of breakages.

The anti-dumping measures will not affect the stove grate trade, but those manufacturers making baths and light castings will benefit considerably, owing to the large imports of baths and rain water goods from abroad.

Wm. Oxley & Co. Ltd., Steel File Manufacturers, Parkgate.—Mr. R. A. Oxley, Managing Director:

The boom which followed the election has not been maintained. Following the national crisis, and particularly following the election of the National Government, there was a distinct improvement in trade, and inquiries were numerous. Unfortunately the improvement was short-lived. I cannot account for it; neither can anyone else. But I believe that it is general. During the last two weeks there had been a distinct falling off.

But T think the outlook is bright. I think that before long there will undoubtedly Ir. a better tendency for buying, and the action being taken by the Government to prevent dumping will have a beneficial effect. We are importing a large quantity of files from America. These can be supplied by British manufacturers.


Kilner BROS., Conisboro’

The position is rather curious. We have had derided fluctuations, and it is difficult to foresee what the end will be. When we went off the gold standard there was a definite move in the right direction. Export inquiries began to come in: people who had been importing foreign bottles found they had to pay more for them and they began to look round for English sources of supply. Then things fell right flat again till the general election–everyone waiting to see what was going to happen. After the election, business began to stir again—not to court a great deal of ice, but just a definite stir. But it did not develop as we expected. It seems that people are waiting to see what tariffs are going on. But we are exceedingly hopeful for the coming year. This trade relies on the whole ‘Country being busy, because our products eventually find their way to the man in the street: and the man in the street is out of work at present. But the position is this:

A few weeks ago we were apparently up against a hopeless situation: Now we have a good deal of hope.

Regarding tariffs: a great number of glass bottles and other glass receptacles are imported from abroad, but we do not feel the competition to the extent that might be thought because the English manufacturer tries to keep off the foreign product. But if other industries which are suffering more from direct foreign competition get protected, we shall get the indirect benefit. This is the position as it affects us: everything we produce goes to the man in the street in the end. If he is short of money, or loses his job, what are the first things in his domestic expenditure that he must give up? He does not get a bottle of beer, but a pint in a tankard—bang goes our glass bottle. His wife cannot afford a bottle of pickles, but gets two pennorth in a cup out of a stone jar—bang goes our pickle jar! Time man cannot afford to give his kiddie twopence for a bottle of “pop”–bang goes our mineral water bottle! Everything that is first to be given up is something in bottles,

But we see definite signs of general trade revival now, and that will change all that.

Dale Brown & Co., Swinton:

It has been a very bad season for the mineral water people, and there have been-no inquiries at all for beer bottles owing to the Budget tax on beer. We have not got back the Indian trade in glass bottles because Germany, foreseeing the effect of our currency depreciation, guaranteed ‘deliveries at the former price, irrespective of currency levels. Currency depreciation has not at present had any effect On our trade, except to increase our costs of production. We are dependent on a general improvement in industry. There is certainly more confidence about, and we anticipate an improvement.


W.N. Baines & Co., Ltd., brassfounders, Rotherham.—Mr. Charles Baines, managing director:

There is no particular improvement at present but we are hoping for and expecting an. improvement. We are hoping that the National Government will do some good, but I am afraid it will be some time before there is any real or lasting improvement. There has been a slightly better tone of confidence since the election, but orders have not particularly improved.   I hope this renewed confidence will lead somewhere, but is too early to say anything at the moment. So far as we can see, anti-dumping will not affect us one way or the other.

Prospects? Well, we will go on hoping!