Although Blue Eyed Sun has exported to a handful of international customers over the years, it’s only since 2012 that the company has begun to focus on overseas expansion. As a result, we’ve distributed to over a dozen new countries in the last two years which has boosted our confidence in the global economy.
Our business isn’t the only one to feel this increased confidence. Here’s a brief overview of what I’ve learned so far about export from a greeting card publisher’s perspective:
Get your product right here first
It’s important to establish yourself and your product well in the UK before you start thinking about exporting abroad. You need to make all of your mistakes locally first as they will all be magnified once you start distributing internationally.
Can you handle export?
Your operational systems must be strong enough to support the increased volume of business. As margins are greatly reduced when you export there is less room for error. Supply chains lengthen when you work with distributors and you need to be sure that you are a strong link in the chain. You not only let down your distributor when things go wrong, but their sales agents, retailers and consumers.
What can go wrong?
The most noticeable issues are strain on your cashflow, credit risks on bad debts that are difficult to chase overseas and fluctuations in currencies which can affect your profits if you don’t get paid in Sterling. Some countries have different laws regarding Intellectual Property and you run the risk of being copied abroad. You can also suffer quality control difficulties because of the increased volumes, freight forwarding issues because of third party couriers and miscommunication problems due to language differences. So why do it?
Why export is worthwhile
Exporting can improve your business. The larger volumes and lower margins have forced us to find better ways of doing things. We’ve had access to new markets and sales we otherwise would not have had. Our products are sold across the world which is very exciting and we have met some great business people who have provided fascinating and inspiring insights into how things can be improved in our business. All this whilst growing our business, flying the Great British flag abroad and providing more jobs for people in the UK.
Why export has been good for us
Our export strategy has also led to greater sales and improved profits. Because we sell to a number of countries, our company isn’t reliant on any single customer. Instead we have a nice spread of business across a range of markets. The product life cycles of our cards have also improved as we extend their lives in new markets. Some of our older best sellers still sell really well abroad because they are relatively new to those markets. This in turn spreads the development cost of these products across a larger number of sales.
Production costs are reduced through greater volumes as savings are made on purchases and operational efficiencies. We also have more options for clearing older stock which may have slowed down at the end of its product life cycle in the UK. Upgrading to the latest version of Sage software also allowed us to handle international currencies with ease.
Whilst export does have its challenges and was not something that Blue Eyed Sun really started to push until we were ready, it has had many benefits to our business. We’re looking forward to expanding our international sales further this year and working with UKTI for the first time to see if we can do the same for our wedding stationery business, Ivy Ellen.