Taking on the world
Lancashire exporters are meeting the challenges they are facing head on – and without fear.
“Bring on Brexit, we will sort out the solution,” declares Tony Grimshaw, the bullish director at What More UK.
As the UK continues its grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, the east Lancashire housewares manufacturer has just announced it has added Costa Rica to its growing list of export destinations, bringing the total up to 74 countries.
Less than 12 months ago it added Senegal to an impressive of export destinations.
Tony says: “People perceive ‘made in Britain’ as made of top quality, and they’re right about that. As a country we have high standards.
“Export is a great way for companies to increase their customer base and in the current market conditions it could provide a lifeline for many organisations.”
He adds: “Manufacturers in particular and all business in general, face crises on a daily basis. Lancashire businesses are better placed than most and are well practised in finding solutions to these,
“The Lancashire mindset is can do, will do. Quality products and quality service, these are Lancashire’s trademarks.
“Irrespective of politics, well-designed, well-made, competitively priced services and products will always find their way to the marketplace.”
‘Nothing we can’t deal with’
Peter Thompson is international division manager at Evans Vanodine International, based at Walton Summit near Preston. Like What More, it is a Queen’s Award winner.
The business been developing and manufacturing cleaning and hygiene products for more than 100 years. It employs 160 people at its Lancashire operation, currently exports to over 80 countries worldwide, with four overseas facilities, and is heavily involved in south east Asia.
Peter says: “The advantage we have is that we are a global exporting business. There isn’t anything that is going to occur in terms of challenges or exporting regulations that we can’t deal with.
“Whatever happens with the EU it is not going to throw something at us that we don’t already know.”
He says there will be an impact whatever the trading relationship between the UK and EU after the transition period. WTO rules would mean import duties of between four to six per cent on its products, and that would be passed onto customers.
No deal could also mean initial delays at ports with goods sitting in bonded warehouses until cleared by customs. However, Peter believes that will only be in the short-term and says: “Customs will get up to speed and people will find ways.”
He says the UK’s Department for International Trade is doing “a sterling job” providing businesses with information on its website.
However, his business doesn’t see Europe as a key market moving forward. “That’s nothing to do with Brexit,” Peter explains. “The EU is full of exporters and competitors, why would we go head-to-head with much bigger companies? Much better to be a bit player in a smaller market.”
No two markets are the same
Blackpool-based TISS is a global supplier of truck fuel security products and another proud Lancashire Queen’s Award winner.
It first began exporting in 2009 and it now sells more overseas than domestically. TISS sells in more than 60 territories with strategic offices in Mexico, India and South Africa.
Most of its trade is outside Europe and director Matthew Rose says it is currently receiving a lot of enquiries from South East Asia and Africa.
His advice to countries is to carry out research on countries before entering them. Matthew says: “Fully understand the market entry requirements and make sure you check tariffs and taxes. You can be surprised at how much variety there is in tariff costs between different countries for exporting exactly the same commodity.
“Be adaptable and understand no two markets are the same. The strategy employed to generate business in one country may not be successful in another.”
He adds: “Regarding coronavirus, the biggest challenge is stock management. We manufacture both in the UK and India. With lockdowns and restrictions on transport, which can be imposed with minimal notice, we have increased both our UK and Indian stockholdings to ensure we have more than enough stock to fulfil orders.”
Agility is key
Leading lighting manufacturer Chelsom, also based in Blackpool, makes and designs decorative lighting solutions for the global hospitality and cruise sectors. And it is another proud Queen’s Award holder, in recognition of its export success.
Overseas trade made up 58 per cent of the business’ overall sales in 2018, growing by almost 60 per cent in a three-year period. Little wonder Chelsom says exporting is “fundamental” to its continued success.
He adds: “The key to moving forward through all of this is to stay as agile as possible. Nobody knows what will happen next under the current circumstances nor which gear we may need to shift in to.
“The best piece of advice is really to keep calm and not make any quick decisions, and be patient with customers and suppliers as well as employees. Everyone is finding it tough.
“Years of experience are very helpful too. Although this is probably the worst challenge most business will have ever faced, we have already reduced our expenditure to a level which means we can cope with a significant drop in turnover.
“We also know what steps have to be taken should things get even worse.
“Being prepared for a different future and thinking about how we can adapt our business to fit the global markets in which we operate and remain relevant and responsive will help. We need to be ready to win every job that is out there now.”
The goal should be growth
Orthoplastics is an industry-leading manufacturer of medical grade plastics and received its first Queen’s Award this year.
Managing director Mark Allen says that the Bacup-based business’ healthcare markets have been hard hit by the coronavirus crisis and its impact on elective surgery.
When it comes to post-transition EU trade, he says Orthaplastics is well-placed to cope with any increase in documentation or compliance.
He adds: “Our strategic preparation with customers, logistics partners and suppliers should mitigate any impact.
“Obviously like most, we have grave concerns of the impacts duties and tariffs may have on affected geographic regions, but this has always been a key factor throughout history.
“We trust the UK government to negotiate hard to benefit all concerned, Yes, we will see some short-term affects, but the long-term goal should always be the strength, growth and resilience of the UK economy.”
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