Wiltshire-headquartered candle maker and seller Charles Farris is about to start selling to customers in countries in Northern Europe, with other overseas markets to follow. Its managing director, Mark Pountain, discusses his export journey so far.
Why did your business decide to start exporting?
“For about 160 years our core customers have been UK churches and cathedrals. Two years ago we decided to add scented candles to our retail products. That took 18 months to develop, and following initial success in 2015 in the UK, we took part in Top Drawer, the London interior design show. This brought us our first international customers, from Australia, Germany, Japan and the USA, which got us thinking. We were then fortunate to join UKTI's Passport to Export service, which in turn alerted us to Open to Export.”
What support have you accessed to help you on your export journey?
“A huge range - largely facilitated by UKTI - including having an international trade adviser, who's been brilliant. We went to an event where we met commercial officers from various British Embassies and High Commissions; we've also gained knowledge from various webinars and seminars and signed up to the online market opportunity service. More recently, we've taken up free membership of the Institute of Export - with its marvellous help desk - and of GreatBritishStore.com as a result of being an Open to Export finalist.”
Which international markets are you looking at first and why?
“Countries in Northern Europe - although we're open to opportunity sales elsewhere. One great piece of advice we've had has been that it's easy enough to sell abroad, but if you want to become established as an exporter, you really must focus on one or two overseas markets. We chose Northern Europe for various reasons, including the fact that countries there are within a short travelling distance of the UK and the business culture and markets are similar to the UK.”
Which channels will you be using to sell your products?
“Having researched various countries, it seems that every country is different and requires a tailored approach. As a principle, we've explored five key potential routes to market - retailers, distributors, agents, trade shows and e-commerce.”
How important is it to carry out thorough market research and planning?
“They're both very important. Obviously these are early days for us as regards exporting, but looking back, even at this early stage, I appreciate how much time, effort and money we could have wasted had we not done four months' concentrated market research. There's always more one could do, but I think the trick is to gain sufficient knowledge and confidence to give a selected market a go.
“I also recognise the importance of cultural intelligence, and while having someone in your company who knows a particular country or speaks a particular language may not be a reason to target a market, it can be a factor. There are lots of things to think about and to get right, but who wouldn't want to have the world rather than just the UK as their market?”
For further information about trading internationally, visit the HSBC Connections Lounge at the International Festival of Business in Liverpool where an HSBC Trade Specialist will be on hand to answer your questions or call +44 (0)800 78 31 300. Lines are open from 9am -5pm, Monday to Friday and calls are recorded for security and training purposes.
- From the UKTI to British Embassies, use the support available for help you in your export journey
- Focus on one or two key markets initially to help you become established as an exporter
- Research your potential markets so you understand which sales channel will work best