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Identifying and entering lucrative new markets is not a simple task, yet essential for business expansion. Martin Davidian, managing director and sales for North UK and Ireland, FedEx Express, explains why UK fashion retailers must seek out opportunities further afield than the traditional hunting grounds of Western Europe.

Taking that international step

Most small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), whether young or established, would be wise to consider markets outside of the UK. Yet knowing where to start can be challenging as it very much depends on the sector you’re trading in and what your company is looking to achieve in the short, medium and long-term.

Traditionally, the UK tends to export to mature markets close to home, such as France or Germany, but it’s easier than ever to tap into less-known markets further afield. That’s where building a strong network of trusted and supportive partners who are experienced in trading internationally come into play, to improve the chances of success. With this network in place and an indefatigable can-do attitude, British businesses have a big opportunity to become world-renowned in any number of different sectors.

Entering productive markets

At FedEx Express we often speak with businesses shortly after they receive their first order from overseas. These businesses haven’t necessarily gone looking for international clientele, but in the digital age they’ve been offered a fantastic growth opportunity on a silver platter.

Of course they want to make the best of the opportunity, and are pleased to learn there is a wide range of support available, from everyone from UKTI, to logistics providers. One of the key pieces of advice we offer is to explore the market in that country to gauge if there is further growth potential. This doesn’t have to involve a major financial investment, as jumping on a plane can be enough to gauge main competitors, market share and price points, and teamed with local support and data insights can provide a much clearer picture of the opportunities available. Even just using the internet to research important market information is a great place to start.

To help businesses in the healthcare, high-tech and fashion sectors, we’ve drawn on our years of exporting experience to detail the markets of opportunity, as well as advise on overcoming the main challenges.

Fashion advice

By capitalising on the growing appeal of “Brand Britain”, the UK fashion industry has already seen huge growth from ecommerce. In the fast-fashion age, an efficient supply chain is absolutely invaluable in getting the latest designs to market quickly, both at home and overseas.

Building on this mounting interest in British labelled clothing, first time apparel exporters should consider exploring European markets as a first step. Given the current Free Trade Agreement and short transit time, it is a natural first step to take.

Further afield, the US is the fruitful market to enter and it is worth taking note of the “fashion hubs” – New York and Los Angeles – and targeting accordingly. When entering any market, consider the price point carefully. If you are exporting to a market with a taste for high-end fashion such as the UAE, consider your value proposition before getting started.

The quality of British products is important and even if manufactured in India and transported back to the UK before being sent to the US, or equivalent, this should still provide huge appeal. You may even consider building Britishness into your branding, for example by sewing a “made in Britain” tag onto each garment.

It’s vitally important that you take customs clearance into careful consideration. For example, you will need to declare the exact textiles used to create each garment based on their percentage by weight; the stitch count should be considered for knitted garments; gender, construction and garment design also play their part. Additionally, consider how to receive the duty and tax on each product as there are certain complexities in Canada and limitations regarding exporting apparel to the US given the complex paperwork required. This includes only allowing up to 800USD worth of goods to be transported to an individual per day. Customs can be fiddly, but with support and guidance from the right expert, can actually be quite easy to manage.

Exploring New Areas

Whatever your industry, it is worth taking inspiration from further afield when growing your international presence. There are countless export opportunities out there and sometimes what seems like the ideal market, might not be as ultimately fruitful as other, lesser-known ones.

Gain guidance from experts locally in both the UK and your chosen country to export to. It is important to have the correct network in place so demand can be met and most importantly grown, so your business can realise its potential and become a true export-preneur!

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