Companies exhibiting at Baselworld and Hong Kong could lose out.
UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) has reportedly reduced its funding for the Tradeshow Access Program (TAP), which offers grants to SMEs looking to take part in international trade shows such as Baselworld, Hong Kong and Inhorgenta.
The decision, which was made this month, is set to impact UKTI accredited trade organisations (ATOs) across several UK industries, including jewellery.
According to Sponsors Alliance, an organisation that promotes and assists in improving trade show support for UK SMEs, the move by the UKTI to reduce TAP funding could lead to the cancellation of some group exhibitions, and bring higher show costs for those utilising TAP at present.
Rebecca Gough, international services manager for British Jewellery & Giftware International, a division of the British Allied Trades Federation and sister organisation to the British Jewellers’ Association told Professional Jeweller: "The majority of SMEs consider the Tradeshow Access Programme funding as critical to their export success, with many stating that they could not exhibit without the support from UK Trade & Investment.
"These funding cuts have impacted on all the shows within British Jewellery & Giftware International’s calendar for the first three months of next year; this includes NY Now, Ambiente, Inhorgenta, Hong Kong International Jewellery Fair and Baselworld. We are working hard to minimise the effect on exhibitors."
Gough added that British Jewellery & Giftware International sits on the committee of the Sponsors Alliance, and will be lobbying to the UK government on behalf of the jewellery industry to have this decision reversed.
Having contacted UKTI, a spokesperson told Professional Jeweller: "We continually review all our programmes and services to ensure they are most effective, and are working closely with our accredited trade organisations (ATOs).
“UKTI remains committed to supporting businesses expand internationally and funding for the TAP has nearly doubled compared to the 2012 to 2013 financial year."
The spokesperson added that UKTI will honour grant applications that have already been approved by the TAP team for any forthcoming events, stating: "We are working closely with our accredited trade organisers (ATOs) regarding any new grant applications, trying to be as flexible as we can within our budget constraints, although ceilings for the numbers of grant applications that can be accepted for each event remaining in the programme have in many cases been reduced."
Professional Jeweller also spoke to a number of British brands and manufacturers that have been taking part in international trade shows in recent years, many of whom have used the support of TAP and UKTI. Among them, Andrew Geoghegan – who took part in Inhorgenta 2014 with UKTI support – described the decision to reduce funding as a shame, but reiterated that other support is still available.
He said: "The support I had from UKTI was terrific and it is a great shame they are pulling their funding. I would add that Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS) were also instrumental in funding my recent business developments, including work needed to prepare for export. Their scope of funding is brilliant and will surprise you if you have been previously disappointed with the lack of scope in other funding bodies."
Despite this, Geoghegan has decided to skip Inhorgenta 2015, to maintain a focus on the British and Irish retail markets. "Instead of pursuing [the German] market now, I realise I have plenty of work to do with my UK and Irish retailers. Our focus is back where it needs to be and we are now having extraordinary results."
The UKTI also stressed the positive work and progress it is making supporting SMEs, with 300 trade advisors now working through its TAP initiative, investment made in its e-Exporting Programme and increased funding for the Event Alliance initiative under which UKTI partners with UK and international event organisers to provide UK companies with value added services like networking opportunities and promotional support.
UKTI also says it has significantly increased the number of companies we have supported to over 47,000 in the year 2013 to 2014.