Why the world loves British products
From Cara Delevingne to Aston Martin, British brands have been on a path of global domination for years. We, and the rest of the world, just cannot get enough of them. In fact, according to recent official figures British exports hit an all-time high in the three months to June, largely thanks to buoyant overseas demand for UK brands. And the Confederation of British Industry thinks that promoting strong brands internationally will help secure long-term economic growth.
Politicians may have now tentatively jumped on the export-led recovery bus but long before they felt brave enough to even whisper about the onset of economic green shoots, British companies and brands were busy broadcasting their booming successes.
The last year has seen fashion firms strut their way up the FTSE catwalk with Burberry posting an impressive retail sales jump in the six months to 30 September 2013. Sales were up 17% to £1.03bn, breaking through the £1bn barrier for the first time thanks to overseas sales as well as digital innovation.
British publisher Penguin was meanwhile busy keeping the world reading. Its underlying growth in the first half of 2013 was 6% but would have been 14% at constant exchange rates.Sales stood at £513m and inflation-adjusted operating profit rose to £28m in part because of the publisher’s ongoing efforts to crack China and capitalise on Asia’s fast-growing English literature market.
Even troubled retailer Marks & Spencer has started banking on love from the overseas markets to revive its fortunes. It has opened new flagship stores in Paris and China and saw its overseas sales rise by 8.7% in the half year to July 2013.
This exporting explosion is not restricted to just a few brands – British industries are also on the rise. Our long-declining car industry is now notably racing ahead. We’re currently making 1.5 million cars and commercial vehicles a year, and 205 million engines. A staggering eight out of 10 of those is exported, meaning that the automotive industry accounts for about 11% of all UK exports.
Trevor Hoyle, Managing Director of Ground Operations UK & Ireland, FedEx Express and FedEx UK, says: “UK companies have a crucial role to play if the UK is to achieve an export-led recovery. International trade is still one of the fastest growing areas of the world economy, and this is reflecting the increasing desire for UK goods and services worldwide.
“Having a product that people want to buy is a fantastic start and if you are ready to take it to the next level in exporting globally, there is a world of opportunity out there for UK enterprises.”
All these brands and industries have grown by exporting and have been working to drive the UK economy back into the black. With that in mind, we thought it was time to give a shout out to six super British brands that are throwing the export gauntlet down and paving the way for a more favourable future.
You can’t talk about the automobile industry without mentioning Mini. Over the decades, what is quite possibly the world’s cutest car, the Mini has given us many, many gifts – not least theItalian Job and the endless Guinness Book of Record bids to cram obscene numbers of students into the Oxford-made car. (In case you’re wondering by the latest count it is 23 into a classic version, and 28 into a new one.)
These days the mighty Mini is German-owned but parent company BMW was voted the world’s most trusted brand again this year, meaning it has been able to shower its British baby with cash and use its gravitas to get Minis into showrooms in over 100 countries worldwide.
In 2012, more than 200,000 Minis were manufactured in the UK, making this Britain’s second most popular car. With £250m invested into the plant in 2012 and £500m in 2011 the company has quite a base from which to conquer the world. Since 2000, BMW has ploughed £1.75bn into the plant overall and this year the latest reworks of the Mini wowed at the Frankfurt Motor Show. Higher-tech models are also in the pipeline, which all spell good things for this quintessentially British brand.
FedEx highlights that “the appetite for British produce is ever-increasing with Mini and a number of other successful UK-born enterprises”. It says: “We have also noted this first hand by working with The Cambridge Satchel Company, a small British manufacturer of leather bags.”
“Starting in 2008 as a literal cottage industry, the company’s bags have now become the toast of the global fashion world with regular orders from places as far afield as Dubai, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei – simply highlighting the current appeal for British produce overseas.”
While we don’t want to make this a car-heavy brand bonanza, fair is fair and Jaguar Land Rover really should be commended on its recent exporting flair.
In 2012, JLR achieved its best ever sales performance, with global sales up 30% and China kicking the UK off the top spot for the first time to become the carmaker’s biggest market.
Indian-owned but British-designed and manufactured Jaguar Land Rover has just announced yet more funding and the creation of 1,700 jobs at its Midland’s Solihull site. It has said it will sink £5bn into the UK over the course of this year and next.
Prime Minister David Cameron is so chuffed with Jaguar that he thinks their investment marks a “huge vote of confidence in the UK” and will deliver a further 24,000 jobs in the supply chain. Ed Miliband loves them just as much, praising JLR for their continued cooperation with local unions and appointing the carmakers chief executive director Mike Wright to produce a widely-publicised review of Britain’s supply chains for the Labour Party.
“Only a generation ago the term ‘Made in Britain’ was viewed in a negative light and a sign of the UK having slipped down the world rankings,” a spokesperson for EEF, the Manufacturers’ organisation for UK manufacturing companies told LondonlovesBusiness.com.
“Yet now, it is enjoying a renaissance and the term is once again one that is recognised around the world for its association with design an engineering excellence. A range of companies and industries including carmakers have forged powerful brands renowned for their emphasis on high value and have become much sought after as a result.”
NOTE: As there are bound to be some of you screaming ‘what about Aston Martin?’, it is worth noting that it has also had a good year. It is now the
UK’s second ‘coolest’ brand, just behind Apple, and has repeatedly topped lists of the UK’s best-loved brands. But while 007 may love it, Aston Martin hasn’t quite rivalled the investment drive of the two listed contenders and endured a shaky 2011-12. With markets improving though and new models launched late last year, 2013-14 could yet be great.
3) Brompton Bicycle
If cars have been getting a mention, then surely British-made bikes deserve one too, and no bike deserves it more than Brompton Bicycle. The iconic fold-up bike may be London-born and London-made, but it is increasingly not London-centric.
It exports more than 80% of its bikes to 42 countries.
But how exactly did this little maker of London bikes manage to grow so much in one of the worst recessions known to man? Easy, it exported. In Italy, it doubled its sales every year since setting up shop there, while its South Korean sales have risen 75% per annum over the last five years. Japan’s sales have tripled in recent years and it’s now Brompton’s biggest export market. With Tokyo set to host the 2020 Olympic Games and developing miles upon miles of bike-friendly roads to cope with the extra demand, it’s safe to assume Brompton is primed to keep on running circles around its competitors.
FedEx notes: “There’s a world of opportunity in today’s international marketplace. SMEs are no longer disadvantaged by size or economies of scale and thanks to the huge increase in eCommerce, international trade continues to open up many doors to SMEs all around the world.”
“Enabling them to better compete with the bigger firms, eCommerce has broken down barriers to make the world more accessible and as a result, companies, no matter their size can trade on a global scale.”
4) Tyrrells Crisps
From a small farm in Herefordshire to the four corners of the world, in the last five years Tyrrells Crisps has seduced overseas markets with its promise to provide quintessential British crisps, even if the Americans insist on calling them chips.
So far, Tyrrells’ main market focus has been on France, Germany and Holland, but the crisp manufacturer is now doing very well in a host of new hungry markets. The company says Scandinavia and the Middle East are now doing phenomenally well, with a big push underway in Asia and even China.
Since opening up Stateside in 2011, Tyrrells has also become a key player in the US and Canada where it entered the top 20 Premium Crisp Brand chart in December 2012, climbing to 18th place by March 2013. And the race to enter even more high-growth markets is on. Nothing official has as yet been announced but the firm is understood to be eyeing up expansion in Turkey and Brazil.
About 30% of all Tyrrells sales come from overseas markets with its international growth was a key reason why Investcorp dished out £100m back in August to guzzle up the booming Brit brand.
“The premium crisps market in the UK is worth £140m,” Tyrrells’ CEO David Milner told us recently when we caught up at a breakfast meeting organised by FedEx.
“If you went to France a few years ago, there were no premium crisps whatsoever, same for Germany. But now, with Tyrrells we make 10 million euros in retail every year. People like the brand in those countries because it’s a product they’ve never had anything like before.”
“The other reason is that we’re very English, our style of packaging and our approach is very English. People get the humour on the packs and the funny black and white photographs go down well too.”
5) Fracino Coffemakers
Don’t let the Italian name fool you – Fracino is 100% British owned, made and exported and has been taking an ever larger chunk of the Italian market for years.
Last year the Birmingham firm scored the highly coveted EEF exporting prize and even got named as a “Winner of Winners” by the manufacturers’ organisation.
Clearly managing director Adrian Maxwell had been sipping on the supplies and in 2008, amidst a weakening UK economy, he had a Eureka moment about exporting. In the five years since the firm has gone from zero international presence to selling in 55 countries and growing. Overseas markets now make up 28% of the company’s total turnover with the brand getting particular recognition in Australia, Denmark, New Zealand and Dubai. The double-digit growth Fracino has posted annually since it started exporting has allowed the manufacturer take on more staff and to invest heavily into research and development seen as critical to conquering future overseas markets.
David Cameron now has a Fracino coffee machine, while G8 leaders also get their caffeine fixes from the British coffee machine when they periodically stop off in London for talks.
Despite serving up the world’s most powerful people though Fracino is still relatively small, turning over £3.6m in the last financial year. But being small is good Fracino says – it means you have plenty of room to grow.
“Our success in exporting internationally reinforces the wealth of opportunities for UK businesses – both product and service based – to broaden their export horizons, plan and research their markets carefully – and reap the wide-ranging benefits,” says Maxwell.
With the strength of British brands growing all the time and British manufacturing getting some serious air time, Fracino expects it will get 50% of its total turnover from overseas markets by 2018.
So if you’re a British brand, it sounds like it is high time you used the power of your cool Brit brand peers to get exporting pronto.
This article is brought to you in partnership with FedEx