New horizons: help & advice for exhibiting abroad

How the UKTI and British trade associations can aid expansion plans.

British jewellery designers or brands hoping to exhibit overseas can find themselves hit with high costs, language barriers and designing for a demanding audience. But help is out there to boost home-grown businesses’ international presence. Kathryn Bishop finds out more.

One day, when the time is right. Hopeful but cautious. That is the default attitude of many British jewellery companies when asked if they plan to take their business overseas. And this caution is not without its reasons.

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The thought of exhibiting at international trade shows and meeting buyers from overseas is sure to conjure excitement and intrigue, but the actual process of exhibiting internationally unravels an array of considerations, from the actual cost of taking part, to how a brand’s products are priced.

In a bid to quell concerns and with it promote UK-based jewellery businesses, a number of national bodies and trade organisations have launched initiatives to support companies seeking to enter overseas markets.

First things considered, there are the basic concerns that all jewellery companies will face when it comes to entering international markets, in particular if they choose to exhibit at an international trade shows. These include having an understanding of that market and its idiosyncrasies when it comes to business deals. Aside from the product selection, a jewellery trade show in Japan, for example, will feature different business practices and expectations of courtesy to a diamond fair in Antwerp, and the same also goes for the Las Vegas shows compared to the gold jewellery shows of Vicenza.

Further there are the language barriers of exhibiting at an overseas trade show, which can also impact the arrangement of appointments with retailers in other countries. To avoid this, companies have been known to hire translators to organise meetings, or otherwise seek out English-speaking buyers or representatives for the companies they are targeting.

And then there are issues of transportation and accommodation, whether this means flying thousands, if not tens of thousands of pounds worth of stock around the world, booking hotels, and having insurance for both the persons and products going on the trip.

UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) has recognised these concerns and offers an antidote to them through its work with British Jewellery & Giftware International (BJGI), the export and import arm of the British Allied Trade Federation. Together they help to support the UK jewellery industry and designers in reaching new markets and taking part in overseas trade shows.

BJGI’s senior coordinator Rebecca Gough describes the organisation’s involvement in promoting British talent, which dates back more than 40 years. “BJGI has helped thousands of companies to export and establish themselves in foreign markets,” she explains. “Its support includes pre-show help with applications for funding, dealing with trade show organisers, advice about the show, advice on size and specification of stand spaces, and the provision of onsite support during set up and breaks down.”

BJGI also provides promotion and advertising of British companies and exhibitors’ products during international trade shows. “Overall the team manages exhibitors’ expectations and provides a community in which exhibitors feel more confident to make the move into international markets,” Gough adds. “Whether you are exporting or importing, BJGI provides information and advice, helps you to promote your products internationally, and saves you time and money.”

Time and money are indeed important factors when it comes to exhibiting overseas, with the cost of international exhibitions, in particular larger shows such as BaselWorld, increasing significantly in recent years. As a result, BJGI works to win funding for brands and designers, as well as discounted rates for exhibition stands, and offers UK-based companies a chance to exhibit as part of a group, providing inherent support through travelling and exhibiting side-by-side.

BJGI also provides assistance on issues such as freight, customs tariffs, insurance, legal advice and payments.

The British Jewellers’ Association (BJA) is also part of the British Allied Trade Federation, and works as a middleman between the BJGI and UK-based jewellery and giftware companies to help them with applications for grants and joint exhibition stands.

The BJA’s marketing and export manager Lindsey Straughton describes some of the considerations that companies must bear in mind when it comes to overseas trade shows or expansion. “Obviously competition is fierce, especially the wider you cast your net, and dependant on the country and time zones, logistics can be an issue,” she notes. “You also need to have a long-term strategy and enough funds to implement your plans, as exhibiting is just part of the development exercise and you need to commit ideally to a three-year market trial.”

This long-term approach might sound daunting, but Straughton says that British-made jewellery designs and silver products are often highly prized by overseas buyers, thus elevating them amidst a sea of other exhibitors.

The BJA’s work to help promote UK talent overseas dates back many years; as well as UK-based initiatives that have targeted international buyers, it has also taken groups of jewellers overseas to foreign trade shows.

An example is the group of seven exhibitors that travelled to Inhorgenta in February 2013 with the BJA, supported by BJGI. They including established companies Soley Jewellery, Sheila Fleet and Ungar & Ungar, and budding designer brands Ros Millar, Clarice Price Thomas and Myia Bonner.

The BJA publicised its Inhorgenta initiative through its newsletter, something picked up by Bernard Ungar of Ungar & Ungar. “The cost of exhibiting [through the BJA] was a fraction of what it would be if I did it on my own, so I thought it was a good, inexpensive way to test the market again,” he explains. “I have previously exhibited at BaselWorld, Inhorgenta, Printor Lyon, Amberif Poland, and the Bangkok Gem and Jewellery show, and found it was certainly much less work doing it as a group, and less planning and expense was needed.”

The jewellers travelled together and all had several meetings prior to the show with UKTI and the BJA to discuss not only the necessities, but the USPs of each brand and how these could be a maximised when exhibiting.

Ros Millar had researched international shows following her stint as an IJL and BJA KickStarter in 2012, and says Inhorgenta was one of the more affordable overseas trade shows thanks to the subsidised stand rates and funding from UKTI. “I initially had a couple meetings with UKTI in London before going to Inhorgenta, and gained advice on how to prepare the brand for outside the UK,” she says. “For example emphasising the fact that I am a London brand on my packaging and website.”

The group also picked up on some of the different traits of international trade shows, the main being the language barrier. “I found it a little hard to communicate with the buyers,” says designer Myia Bonner of her Inhorgenta experience. “Although we had an interpreter on our stand, it was a lot harder to make conversation [compared to UK trade shows].”

Millar also recognised a difference in what piqued the interest of buyers visiting the show. “They were less interested in the background of the brand and more interested in the design,” she explains. “The show was much larger than other shows I had taken part in, and opened my eyes to whole different market and the different style of jewellery design that was being produced in Germany and throughout Europe.”

Funding is not just limited to European or North American shows. An increasing number of British jewellers, like British luxury goods companies, are seeking and winning success in the Far and Middle Eastern markets.

As Gough explains: “We recently led a successful trade mission to Japan in conjunction with the British Embassy in Tokyo, which was an incredible success for the jewellers involved, as they had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with relevant buyers from the big department stores in Tokyo.”

BJGI has also helped a number of British jewellers make inroads into the notoriously difficult Chinese market. One such project has involved jewellery brand Fei Liu, run by Chinese-born jeweller Fei Liu, and headquartered in Birmingham. The business has managed to straddle both the UK market and the Chinese market thanks to Liu’s business nous. He has won great success in China with his brand, most recently collaborating with diamond mining company Rio Tinto to create a diamond collection targeted at the Chinese market, and his UK presence is also enviable, with his silver and fine jewellery collections sold through retailers including Annoushka, Allum & Sidaway, T.A. Henn and Green & Benz.

Having gained an understanding of designing for two very different markets, Liu has flown the flag for British-based jewellers, representing them on a number of trips with the BJA and BJGI, showcasing designers’ work in China, while also hosting seminars in the UK to advise companies on how best to enter the Asian market.

“I took nine designers work to showcase in my Beijing shop,” he says. “We not only successfully invited more than 400 guests but also achieved coverage in nearly 40 magazines and websites following the event, and successfully sold designers work during the event.”

Brands that have had their work showcased by Liu in Asia include Dorit Jewellery, Leyla Abdollahi, Tomasz Donocik and William Cheshire, as well as silversmith Christopher Perry. “We plan to continue to invest in the marketing and promotion of British jewellery in order for the Chinese clients to understand British design,” he explains. “We have managed to achieve some coverage of the British designers’ work in the Chinese press, and aim to generate much more.”

Whether you want to make tentative steps into Europe or win spend in emerging markets there is a wealth of help and advice available to UK jewellers that is only a phone call or email away. Because, when it comes to flying the flag for Britain and winning success overseas, jewellers need to exhibit more than just great jewellery; it is about perseverance and a focus on long-term achievement.

This feature was taken from the December issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.



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