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From surviving to thriving by doing business overseas...
More than 120 West Midlands business people were in Worcester on Wednesday to hear how they might benefit from the wealth of opportunities available in global markets as the recession continues to bite.
As well as practical advice and information from UK Trade & Investment experts from eight central European countries, delegates heard inspirational talks from senior representatives from Jaguar Land Rover and HSBC.
One company that understands what it's like to start on the export journey is Redditch based AMS Group - one of the UK's leading suppliers of shopfittings and hotel furniture. With an annual turnover of £32m, AMS's clients include Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Primark, Butlins, Hilton and Premier Travel Inn.
Jim Clark, AMS owner and managing director, attended the event and this is what he had to say:
"I hope this event shows local companies the fantastic service that's available from UK Trade & Investment. In 2008 and 2009 the recession hit us hard, it was horrible and I needed to find some inspiration, support and advice to help us develop the business in new ways. One of the avenues I took was through UKTI."
AMS recognised that the business world was becoming a smaller place and so it took part in UKTI's Passport to Export programme for new exporters. The company realised customers wanted products sourced from low cost economies but with local delivery and service. AMS then set up a dedicated global sourcing office based in Shanghai. These orders are then processed and finished in Redditch, then fitted in the UK and Europe.
This year, with help from UK Trade & Investment, there has been a shift in the company's global strategy towards Central Europe. Through Eric Brown, Head of UK Trade & Investment in Herefordshire and Worcestershire, the company has received advice and information on this market,and commissioned two Overseas Market Introduction Service research projects.
In March, Jim Clark joined a UKTI visit to Poland, meeting Commercial Officers at the British Embassy and seeing first hand some of the large scale retail developments in Warsaw and Lodz.
"We were presented with an opportunity by one of our customers to set up in Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary and we had to take it," explains Jim. "I got a lot of help from a number of different people including Eric at UKTI. On our visit to Poland we spoke to UKTI's Commercial Officers at the British Embassy in Warsaw and had lots of introductions to people to 'pick their brains'. We also got to view first hand the retail scene out there.
"Now our Eastern and Central European business is worth £2.5m per year and growing. One of the most valuable aspects of UKTI is the way they have helped us understand the 'bigger picture' in the new market we're in. This has helped us maximise the opportunities available to us. Eric has been truly inspiring!"
An AMS supply chain is now operating in Czech Republic and Poland. To any companies thinking of contacting UKTI to find out more about exporting Jim says:
"Do it now - just ask, ask, ask! The only limit to how much help you will get will be your own energy to absorb it."
AMS's exports are now worth £6.5m and growing.
Eric Brown, Head of UK Trade & Investment in Herefordshire and Worcestershire says:
"Our Export Factor event in Worcester focussed on helping companies to trade overseas, particularly in Central European markets, where we lead for the region. The financial crisis means trading conditions in the UK are difficult so most companies need to look overseas to maintain business growth.
"Jim Clark of AMS Group has successfully secured substantial business in Czech Republic and is looking to grow his business in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia, with the help of UKTI's International Trade team, based at the Chamber. It has been a delight to work with Jim and we wish him continued success in Central Europe and beyond."
T: +44 (0)20 7215 8000
21st October 2011