Alan Halsall, founder member and chairman of SREG, recently launched a flagship store in Hong Kong for Silver Cross, the Skipton-based pram and nursery products company he bought in 2002. Under Alan’s leadership, heritage brand Silver Cross now exports to over 50 countries and in 2011 saw sales increase by 47% in Asia alone. Here he shares his route to market.

Business success is all about making it happen. Lots of people have great ideas, but the ones who succeed are the ones who put them into practice. This requires not only extreme dedication but also an ability to concentrate on what is important and not be sidetracked by the irrelevant.

This was the approach we took when we decided to develop an export market for Silver Cross. We set out by researching and attending international trade shows with products that we believed had some international appeal and we welcomed approaches from potential distributors. However, many were in small territories that offered little chance of meaningful business potential even if we did well. As a result, we took the decision to focus on more important larger territories where despite there being more developed competition, we knew that even if we only succeeded in a small way the result would be a meaningful business.

In addition to being aware of local standards and ensuring our products complied, the next most important decision was choosing the right local partner. For export success, you need a local distributor/supplier who not only understands the local market but has the right contacts with the right retailers.

For us, a premium, heritage brand, retailers had to have the right profile for our products. You must also ensure that your partners are financially viable as they are your face in the market. If they have financial issues, this can really impact on your business in the present and in years to come. With any potential distributor, we insist on a legally binding contract based on English Law, with minimum purchase requirements and appropriate marketing support.

Once you’ve set up your distribution, you need to continue making it happen. Even the best local partner will need constant contact and input from you to ensure success – you can’t leave them alone to get on with it. We visit our export markets regularly to find out what retailers our distributors are selling to, which products are working best and why, and to see what marketing, advertising and PR they are they doing to support business growth. This also helps you build local business knowledge which is vital for continued success and further export development.

For more information on how to export your products or services, visit UK Trade & Investment at www.ukti.gov.uk/export.html

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