A Staffordshire pottery firm has increased the value of its exports by 3,500 per cent, following a switch to new markets and products.
Ceramic Decals, based in Stoke-on-Trent, specialises in manufacturing decorative transfers for ceramic table ware, tiles and glass
The firm, which employs 42 employees, was facing a difficult time with many of its customers closing down or shifting their production to low cost countries in the Far East.
It has now increased its export sales from £10,000 to £350,000 in the past year after receiving help from UK Trade & Investment.
The company has recently diversified into interior decoration, using state-of-the-art machinery to manufacture instant stencils that can easily be applied to a wide range of surfaces - including walls, cupboards, tiles, glass and even candles - by sticking them to the surface, applying water and peeling the paper away.
Featuring patterns created by TV interior designer Linda Barker, these transfers were launched in the UK in January last year, and proved an instant hit.
Ceramic Decals is now exporting to the Middle East Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates and has appointed agents across South America.
Export sales are continuing to grow, with a projected figure of at least £400,000 for 2005.
Company director Nigel Moult said: "We decided to move into tile prints and designs because a lot of the local ceramics manufacturers were moving their production abroad or were going out of business.
"Now we are moving from the traditional table ware to the tiles and designs. These are particularly popular in the Middle East, where the style is for a more decorative approach."
Ceramic Decals joined UK Trade & Investment's Passport programme - a scheme that gives new exporters the training, planning and ongoing support they need to succeed overseas - in March 2004, to help it export both the ceramic decorations and the new interior design stencils.
As a result, the company has benefited from a package of support, including a business health check and matched funding of up to £3,000.
Mr Moult said: "The Passport programme has helped us to focus our efforts, widen our portfolio of products and increase significantly our volume of sales."