A celebration breakfast honouring East Midlands companies that were successful in the international trade category at this year’s Queen’s Awards for Enterprise has been held at East Midlands Airport today (Tuesday 5 July).
The event, hosted by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) in conjunction with the Institute of Directors (IoD), was designed to inspire other firms which have seen significant export growth to submit an application for the prestigious awards next year.
The gathering saw this year’s winners from a broad range of sectors talking about the benefits of the scheme and why the accolade has been so important.
There were also tips for exporting success and a panel discussion with LEEC Ltd, Greenray Capital Ltd, Red Arch Manufacturing Ltd and Cheaney Shoes Ltd - all of whom received Queen’s Awards this year.
Exporting is GREAT
The event, which was chaired by Ron Lynch, Regional Director of the IoD, ties in with the Government’s ongoing Exporting is GREAT initiative, which aims to inspire and support 100,000 additional UK exporters to sell their goods and services overseas by 2020.
Ian Harrison, UKTI Regional Director in the East Midlands, also attended and urged more firms to apply for the Queen’s Awards in 2017.
Amongst this year’s Queen’s Awards successes were Northamptonshire company, Cheaney Shoes, which has seen international trade triple over the past seven years from £800,000 to £2.4 million.
Exports now account for around 30 per cent of the company’s turnover with Japan and Italy key markets for the business, whose history stretches right back to 1886.
Cheaney was part of the Church Shoe Group and later the world famous Prada Group for around 50 years before cousins Jonathan and William Church took over the business following a management buy-out in 2009.
Growing international trade was an integral part of the strategy for the new operation.
New lease of life
William Church explained: “We believed that we could build the Cheaney brand up and give it a new lease of life. It had all the right ingredients - a strong heritage, its own UK factory and a skilled local workforce. Being independent gave us the opportunity to raise the profile of Cheaney as a brand in its own right, both in the UK and internationally.”
The discerning Japanese market quickly became a key target for the relaunched Cheaney Shoes as the Japanese have a huge respect for well-made hand-crafted goods and the Made in England brand.
Working closely with UKTI, the firm also began to target markets such as South Korea and Russia. It now has a presence in some 38 countries around the world.
William explained: “Exporting is not easy. You have to dedicate the time to grow. It’s about making the effort to get out there, promoting the brand and our collections, and with that build our business.
“We’ve now opened six new stores in the UK including a flagship store on Jermyn Street in the heart of London. We’ve also launched a new e-commerce site, all of which has grown our worldwide recognition.”
Achieving a coveted Queen’s Award was always a target for the team, William added.
Significant export growth
“You have to prove three years of significant export growth,” he explained. “Our numbers were there and when the time came to apply, we knew we had a good shot. There were lots of forms to fill in and lots of detail we had to provide about the company, our ethics and the people who work for us.
“We employ 160 people, mainly in our factory and the award definitely provides them with a big motivational boost. It’s recognition that the business is growing in the right direction and a lift for a business like ours which is not about machines and cutting edge technology but about skilled craftsmen and women.
“The award recognises that the footwear we make has global market appeal. The opportunity exists for us to grow and build our exports, not just tin existing markets but new ones too.”
Plans to grow international trade
Cheaney now plans to grow its international trade even further with the aim that exports will comprise at least 50 per cent of its turnover within the next three years.
William added: “We feel very positive about our future. We relish the challenge of another three years’ export growth and we would certainly apply for another Queen’s Award if that is the case.”
Firms interested in applying for the 2017 Queen’s Awards have until Friday 2 September 2016 to submit their information. Find out more HERE
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