Please provide a company background including when it was established, where it is located, how many staff you employ etc.
Founded in 1894, originally specializing in bespoke wig manufacture for the medical and legal professions, RH Smith & Sons Ltd introduced costume, accessory and novelty ranges in 1977, following the purchase of the company by its current owner, Ray Peckett. The organisation has offices in the UK, Hong Kong and Australia and is made up of three internationally recognised Brands – Fever, Smiffy’s and Time4Fun and has 250 employees.
Please provide an overview of the products and services offered and areas of specialisation.
We have continued to expand from our costume, wig, and accessory heritage into developing markets and retail channels, through the introduction of children’s toys and novelties, clubwear, hosiery, eyelashes and salon-quality wigs. This has defined our three brands, our trade channel marketing and product development strategies and our territory partnerships.
How did you find out about emita and what benefits do you find the most valuable?
In our early stages of International Sales development, we worked initially with UKTI. This evolved into more specialised development needs as we advanced strategically and we were naturally drawn to the extended support network available to us through emita. There help with specific market research and guidance on ‘Export Best Practice’, have allowed us to prioritise our international focus and adopt successful business approaches to maximise non-UK sales.
How long has your company been active in the export / import market and which countries do you currently trade with?
From very small beginnings around 15 years ago, through incidental international enquiries and embryonic distributor partnerships, our export business really began to expand in a major way about 5 years ago, bringing us to a stage in our company history where International territories now represent the main expansion opportunity for the future. Recognition of this by our business owners has led to major investment is foreign trade resources, placing ‘International’ at the forefront of our long-term objectives.
We currently export to 42 countries including Hong Kong and Australia, as well as throughout Europe.
What made you decide to expand your business overseas?
Domestic market saturation and the recognition that, if we wished to grow beyond the natural population limitations of the UK, then we had to diversify and find new markets.
What has been your biggest exporting / importing challenge?
We found that countries with little or no pre-existing market for our product category required us to build the market from the ground up, requiring patience and an ability to ‘sell’ the opportunity to sometimes unreceptive audiences. Export legislation, indigenous manufacturing base & logistics also represent the biggest challenges.
What’s the most helpful piece of international trade advice you have received?
Prioritise effectively, committing resources and investment into receptive markets. Be flexible to local needs, without moving away from brand and service objectives.
What does the future hold? Any particular markets you are looking to target next?
We have recently restructured our international sales force, employing greater in-territory expertise to develop localised strategies. This includes specialists in territories outside our European heartland, where remote management and the intricacies of these new markets are difficult to manage remotely from the UK.