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Studies of UK rural industrialization have traditionally sought to explain the success of rural SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) in terms of their capacity for innovative or enterprising behaviour. In turn, this has led researchers to focus their attention on the material aspects of competitive behaviour, particularly those connected to technology and technological exploitation, at the expense of more intangible aspects such as the advantages gained from novel working practices and marketing strategies. In particular, the notion of ‘quality’ as a determinant of competitive behaviour, an idea gaining increased emphasis within literature concerning rural SMEs in the food, farming and craft sectors, has been neglected in wider studies of rural industrialization. However, this paper contends that both ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ constructions of quality are significant factors in the success of manufacturers outside these specific sectors.