UK online and catalogue retailer N Brown is exploring options to bring some of its manufacturing back to the UK amid increasing sourcing costs in Asia.

In a bid to kick-start its plans, the company is to hold meetings with more than 50 UK clothing suppliers in Leicester next week.

N Brown, which is best known for its plus-size and value brands Simply Be, Jacamo and Marisota, as well as online lingerie retailer Figleaves, currently sources just 1% of its products in the UK, with the majority of its merchandise coming from the Far East.

But higher raw material and labour costs, coupled with long lead times, have risen to the point the retailer is ready to evaluate alternatives, especially for re-ordering successful lines.

Nevertheless, the notion that low cost clothing production could return to Western markets from the now dominant Far East exporters is a novel one.

N Brown refuses to be drawn on just how much manufacturing it wants to return to the UK.

A company spokesperson tells just-style: "N Brown’s objective is to review what's possible and then, once the cost dynamics between the UK and overseas supply base are understood, N Brown will be able to have a view on what percentage of their ranges will be able to be sourced from the UK."

The company says it is still assessing what manufacturing capability there is in the UK, and will spend time visiting factories that meet its business requirements at this month's meetings.

"At this stage it's very exploratory, N Brown believes that there are opportunities, but until they've gone through the process they will not be certain," the spokesperson adds.

"Given the current issues in the traditional Far East sourcing areas, N Brown needs to understand if there are real manufacturing opportunities in the UK to support the business."

Plans for finding suppliers are in their infancy, so UK press talk of relocation and industry revivals would appear a little premature. However, N Brown's findings will be worth noting for a number of Western brands who are feeling the pinch of overseas sourcing costs.