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Trade Minister takes the mystery out of exporting with Grimsby case study that’s making a killing

Baroness Rona Fairhead, Minister of State for Trade and Export Promotion at the Department for International Trade, wants more companies to follow Grimsby murder-mystery phenomenon Red Herring Games’ overseas success.
Here the former Business Ambassador for UK Trade and Investment and past chairman and chief executive of the Financial Times Group, who received as CBE for services to industry in 2012, writes for

Trade Minister takes the mystery out of exporting with Grimsby case study that’s making a killing

REGIONS across Britain are already seizing the initiative and exporting more.

Latest figures show sales of goods made in every region across the UK were up in the year to September 2017, including Yorkshire and the Humber which seen a 15.2 per cent increase in exports of goods. A rise in overseas demand for English-made cars, whisky from Scotland, dairy products from Wales and machinery from Northern Ireland mean that every part of the UK is benefiting from increased trade with the world.                          

As a great global trading nation, Britain has a strong record in its exports performance. Overall UK exports of goods and services have increased by more than 14 per cent in the year to September 2017, with the UK trade deficit narrowing by £14.5 billion over this period.

Put simply, we have great exporters, in a wide range of sectors who deliver stronger employment growth, and pay higher wages than non-exporters.

Yet, despite this, DIT estimates that there are around 300,000 businesses in the UK that could be exporting – yet currently have no overseas sales. Reasons for this can vary, but often companies do not always feel they have the confidence or know-how to sell what could be a successful product into the global market. 73 per cent of current or potential exporters want to build their knowledge about how to export and 75 per cent of SME exporters aren’t aware of how to access trade finance. I believe this can change.

To do this, I am overseeing a new ‘Export Strategy’ to help businesses export more. This means working closely with businesses, and across Whitehall, to explore the barriers to exporting and identify the best ways in which we can help drive and support UK companies to increase exporting activity and unlock high potential opportunities overseas.

I want to see more success stories like Grimsby-based Red Herring Games which has transformed its business through exporting. Established 10 years ago in managing director Jo Smedley’s spare room, the company now sells a range of 146 dinner party and murder mystery games across the globe. In 2016, 50 per cent of the company’s revenue was through exporting. In 2017, this rose to 75 per cent with sales through Amazon alone. 

Just four years ago, the company approached DIT and with its advice and support, Red Herring Games had the knowledge and confidence to send its entire catalogue of titles out to the US. The US is now the company’s biggest and most lucrative export market, with plans to go to even further.

Help is already easily accessible from my department, a series of online tools including the ‘trade profile’ matching tool, which matches supply and demand - UK businesses and their products with promising global markets. 5,000 businesses have signed up in the past year, and I know from speaking to local businesses, there are thousands more which could turn themselves into exporters, creating more jobs, growth and profit.

This month, we have also launched a new ‘Export Readiness’ tool, which allows businesses to find out where they are in their own export journey. By answering a few short questions, businesses will be able to check whether they are ready to export, find suitable potential markets for them and learn about the necessary steps they need to take to grow their business.

Across the world, consumers admire the creativity, quality and ingenuity of British made goods. I want businesses to reach their potential and send their products across the world. The opportunities are out there and I want business to know that the Government stands ready to support your ambitions.

Ten years ago Jo Smedley would never have guessed that her murder mystery games would one day be in demand all over the world.  

Jo had already begun selling via Amazon US, but after approaching DIT, she was able to expand her product availability, resulting in a significant increase in sales within the year. 

The American market has proven lucrative for Red Herring Games, selling nearly 70 times more products than they did the UK. 

Demand also comes through via Jo’s website, which was internationalised with the help of DIT’s e-commerce team. By reflecting cultural differences and using American phrasing, Jo reports a massive difference to her sales and admits these are things she wouldn’t have done without DIT’s advice. 

Having DIT by her side has also given Jo confidence to grow her business, as she’s now looking at setting up offices in both Australia and America to better service her customers.

To date, they’re shipping out faster than they can print, with 500 boxsets needed every month, while on the way providing a murder mystery for reality TV show, The Only Way Is Essex, hosting in Hawaii and creating a game for the grand celebrations that marked the Agatha Christie 125th birthday event recently.With Jo now looking to outsource her printing and take on more staff to cope with the demand, it’s safe to say that for Red Herring Games, the export mystery is solved.

GRIMSBY-based Haith’s has been manufacturing high quality bird food since 1937, adding bait ingredients more recently as it looked for new markets at home and abroad.   

With 80 years of UK business behind them, Haith’s had spent a long time building a heritage brand when they decided to develop their exports.  

Simon King, associate director, said that DIT helped them create an export strategy to expand their business beyond UK shores. 

He said: “I’m a big fan of DIT and consider it a must for SMEs wishing to export. With Brexit on the horizon it makes good sense to tap into the expertise of DIT trade advisers. 

“Duncan Slater is our local trade adviser and he has been a great help during the choppy waters of the post-Brexit vote; he’s helped us take a long-term view of accounts and improve our digital offering to a point that now enables us to recruit new clients electronically and protect our intellectual property.”

One of their first challenges was to improve the internationalisation of the website. Understanding global SEO was a crucial step, enabling them to reach markets in the Netherlands, Italy, France and Germany. By working alongside a DIT e-commerce adviser, Haith’s developed the skills, and subsequently saw an increase in sales. 

In just 18 months, Eurparc-based Haith’s generated almost £60,000 from new accounts, with these orders going on to become long-term clients that are now building their ranges around Haith’s products. By having access to DIT’s exporting knowledge, Haith’s has been able to develop their overseas trade and tackle any problems faster and more efficiently.   

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