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Why does Australian-made cost so much?

We often have customers asking if we can discount our products or run sales. The majority of consumers in Australia are used to big companies selling cheap imports from overseas. For example, a bridle that we would sell for $300 can be sold by Goodwoods, or a similar company, for $80 and then discounted to $40. How does that happen?

Our workshops are located in Wagga Wagga and Cootamundra in NSW, Australia, so we have to pay Australian wages, material costs and overheads. The cost of our products is worked out to cover the cost of materials, overheads and wages (think more mechanic’s wages not millionaire’s) so to discount our products means that we can’t cover our costs and are working for free!

So, how can importers sell their gear so cheaply?

The MONTHLY WAGE for a leather worker in BANGLADESH is $77. We also use top-quality, veg-tanned, Australian leather or Hermann Oak leather from the United States where there are important worker-protection laws. Our material costs and overheads alone per bridle are more than the cost of an entire imported bridle but it gives us peace of mind knowing that there are no child workers or unsafe practices involved in tanning our leather. For one example of the dangers faced in the  leather tanning industry in other countries, visit Bangladesh’s leather industry exposes workers and children to toxic hazards.

Sources: WageIndicator.org, Numbeo, PBS

Our products, sustainability & NESTS...

Our products are made from top-quality materials that are designed to last. With over 25 years of experience in the industry, we have also acquired the knowledge, skills, machinery and tools needed to repair products rather than sending them to landfill.

The challenge is that some customers will bring products that they have bought cheaply in for repairs. The knowledge and skills needed to repair such a product to be safe for use are considerable and the cost of the repair will often be more than the product originally cost due to it being made from inferior materials or by overseas labour. For consumers to shop more sustainably, we need to value quality products and the skills needed to make them.

So what does this have to do with NESTS?

Australia has seen so much of its manufacturing go overseas where labour is cheaper. How big of an issue is this? We’ve got a successful business and a great product with a loyal customer base so we’ve had multiple opportunities to expand. Every time we do, we face the same challenge. More work means more workers, which means more wages and worker’s insurance etc. and we end up taking on more risk and stress for no increase in profit. Raise prices, you say? Well, we’re competing in an industry inundated with cheap imports. Our niche market is being able to provide top-quality products that are still affordable to average Australians and if we raised our prices we’d price ourselves right out of the market.

Why does this matter?

Without Australian manufacturers, such as ourselves, there is no avenue for tradespeople to learn the skills necessary to build or repair products. Yes, there are always hobbyists and backyarders who can do quick and simple repairs to horse gear but there is no way that they can service the entire horse industry in Australia. For that, we need people with, not just the knowledge and skills, but also the machinery and tools. Otherwise, the industry becomes purely disposable with products unable to be repaired and simply sent to landfill and replaced with more cheap products.

So why don’t we just train more staff?

We’ve explored this option many times but without access to any Registered Training Organisations or any of the funding usually supplied to apprentices in other industries, such as building, we have to pay our untrained workers full wages, while also taking the time to teach them the necessary skills and covering the costs of all of their mistakes. With such tight profit margins, we have decided that it is more profitable for us to stay small and employ only our existing, experienced staff rather than training new tradespeople. It would be great to see the Australia government support our industry in the same way that it does other industries so that we can pass on our skills before they are lost.

6 questions to ask when buying a saddle

Who designed and built my saddle?

You should be able to discuss your needs and the merits of your saddle with the person who made it. Mathew Murray saddles are handcrafted at Riverina Saddlery in Wagga Wagga, NSW, by Mathew and his experienced team. Mathew has spent a lifetime working with horses and over 25 years designing, and refining, his saddle patterns to ensure they best  meet the needs of moder horses and riders and match his high standards for comfort, quality and class.

What type of saddle tree has it been built on?

The saddle tree is the skeleton of your saddle and a good saddle cannot be built on a bad tree. Mathew Murray saddles are built using tried and true Australia trees built be trusted tree-makers with a long history in the trade. We use carbon-fibre trees, by Wattus-Cormick, for their wide, flat surface that spreads weight evenly and their well-shaped bars and good channel that are proven to suit a variety of Australian horses. We also use JW Freeman wood steel trees.  Jeff is known Australia-wide for the calibre of his trees and we’ve found they are perfect for our traditional stock saddles.

What type of leather has been used?

The type of leather used in your saddle is integral to its overall look and durability. Mathew Murray saddles are handcrafted using Hermann Oak 1st Grade leather. Hermann Oak is one of the last pit-tanned leathers in the world and has a reputation worldwide for being the premier leather for saddles due to its durability and finish. We have found that our saddles built with Hermann Oak retain their value and stand up to the toughest of conditions.

What fittings have been used?

Fittings should be safe, long-lasting and look good. Mathew Murray saddles are built with top quality stainless steel and brass fittings which are less corrosive than other fittings available and complement the stylish look of our saddles.

What is the saddle lined with?

All saddles need insulation between the saddle and the horse. Man-made materials or leather linings trap heat, which is painful for your horse. Mathew Murray saddles are lined with natural fibres, genuine merino, wool felt or wool serge – which breathe and eliminate heat, making your horse more comfortable.

What does the saddle look like?

A saddle should look comfortable and inviting to sit in. Mathew Murray saddles are close contact, which allows you to relax and sit without compensating or pushing against your natural position in any way. They have clean lines and well-finished edges that we have carefully hand-polished and sealed for a stylish finish.

Like what we do and want to help?

We need mainstream Australia to understand what we’re up against. Please use our info to help educate others or join our socials to help promote our products and feel free to ask us any questions at info@mathewmurray.com.au

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