Please provide a company background including when it was established, where it is located, how many staff you employ etc.
Collingwood are a family run business established in 1901. They began manufacturing LED light fixtures in 2002 and selling to the UK electrical wholesale market. The company had 15 employees at this time. In 2015, Collingwood are a £30m business and have over 170 staff.
Please provide an overview of the products and services offered and areas of specialisation.
Collingwood are manufacturers of high quality LED lighting product that are made to ‘fit and forget’ with a minimum 70,000 hours life expectancy (that’s over 20years if product is ran for 8 hours a day).
Collingwood provide a total LED lighting solution service. Our dedicated team of trained lighting specialists work with anyone from architects, electrical contractors and specifiers to end users with domestic requirements. They offer their expertise and advice on lighting schemes, ensuring that the correct products are selected to achieve the client’s desired effect.
Collingwood product comes with a 7 year extended warranty.
How did you find out about emita and what benefits do you find the most valuable?
As export sales manager at Collingwood, I had worked very closely with UKTI on various projects. UKTI had recommended I look up EMITA to help grow our export business.
I find the access to international market experts the most valuable service that Emita offer. It is an extremely useful and economical way of gaining an insight in to a market that you have no knowledge of.
How long has your company been active in the export / import market and which countries do you currently trade with?
Collingwood have been actively exporting since 2006. We now trade with 20 countries worldwide through distributors, as well as having our own sales teams on the road in France and Germany.
What made you decide to expand your business overseas?
We knew we had high quality product that would be universally accepted. We were also the first company to manufacture an LED down light that was a true equivalent to a 50w halogen lamp. Being first to market with our offering gave us the confidence to know that we would be successful in any market.
What has been your biggest exporting / importing challenge?
As LED has technology has evolved and become a widely accepted and recognised, credible light source, the market place is becoming wiser to good and bad LED product; (a good thing). To help keep poor quality, unreliable product out of the market, many countries are slowly beginning to introduce standards and regulations that must be met to import LED product in to the country(also a good thing!).
However, there is currently no independently recognised European / world wide standard which must be met. Therefore every country is in charge of their own standard. This means that in order to distribute to 20 different countries, 20 different sets of standards must be met, which means 20 lots of testing must be carried out and (more importantly) paid for.
This situation makes “dipping your toe” in to a new foreign market a far more costly, and therefore risky, venture.
What’s the most helpful piece of international trade advice you have received?
I was told many years ago to always be sure to approach every new country with an open mind and to treat as a blank canvas. Even though their markets and cultures may have similarities to other neighbouring countries; no two are the same.
I have also received excellent advice on customs documentation and letters of credit from Synergy in Trade, who I met at an Emita event.
What does the future hold? Any particular markets you are looking to target next?
Collingwood still have a very long way to go with our export aspirations. Our goals are to increase our presence in Europe by sourcing distributors in countries where we have no representation, and to grow our brand in regions where we have an existing customer base.
We will also be focussing focussing on the Middle East market for opportunities to expand our export business.