Staffordshire businesses have been given advice on how to crack the potentially lucrative Chinese market.
Almost 50 firms from the county attended a breakfast event at Furama Palace, Stoke-on-Trent, organised by UK Trade & Investment’s Staffordshire international trade team.
For many years, groups of Staffordshire companies have showcased their products at the Ceramics China exhibition in Guangzhou, with support from UKTI’s Trade Access Programme.
Members of North Staffordshire Chamber of Commerce’s International Trade Committee, who exhibited at this year’s show, were on hand at the event to offer advice and support based on their experiences in the market.
The group was led by committee chairman Adrian Allen, managing director of Stoke-on-Trent firm Anderen, which acts as a bridge between UK and Chinese companies. Mr Allen has a vast amount of experience in both the Chinese market and the ceramics industry.
UKTI international trade adviser Wendy Hall, based at North Staffordshire Chamber, said: “Adrian and I are promoting the industry with the help of the British Consulate in Guangzhou, who are working with us on a three-year project to support UK companies in China. This is a great time to be taking hi-tech solutions to China for the ceramics sector, and in all sectors there seems to be more money available and younger entrepreneurs who have a more Western approach to business.”
Speakers at the event included representatives from the China Britain Business Council, sponsor HSBC, and Jon Hewitt, joint managing director of Hygan Products, of Stoke-on-Trent, which manufactures synthetic sponge products for the ceramics industry. The company has traded successfully in China for eight years, winning the Midlands World Trade Forum Exporter of the Year Award in 2007.
Mr Hewitt said: “China is a fantastic opportunity for UK companies who want to export their products of services to the world’s fastest growing market – but it is important to research the market thoroughly and visit the market.”
“When we first tried to export to China in 1999, we were ill-prepared in terms of the research we had done. However, we then carried out more market research from the UK and utilised funding from various bodies, including UKTI, to visit China again, and this time we were better prepared. This enabled us to attend exhibitions, visit potential customers in the factories and learn about not only the market for our products, but also the business culture, which is so important there,” he added.
Nine years later, China is now the company’s biggest export market with sales increasing. The company now supplies 70 per cent of all imported sponges in the Chinese ceramics industry, and export business makes up nearly 90 per cent of its total sales.