It’s known for terrible weather and fish and chips but Britain is also the birthplace of many homegrown brands that are incredibly desired overseas, such as Timeless Chesterfields
What exactly does it mean to be British? Stereotypes and Hollywood would lead you to believe it requires a stiff upper lip, speaking the Queen’s English and excessive tea consumption throughout the day, with the nation’s beloved beverage accompanied by an array of biscuits, scones and crustless sandwiches.
Of course, we know better than that. Where its people are concerned, Britain is a melting pot of diversity filled with different races, styles, accents, tastes and passions and this translates to British businesses too. Nevertheless, embracing that quintessential Britishness can work wonders, as we found out as part of a Brand Britain miniseries, which explores the power of UK-crafted goods overseas.
Having launched in 1982, handcrafted furniture maker Timeless Chesterfields first started exporting in the late 80s and initially traded with customers who would then resell the firm’s products independently. This began in France where Bolton-based Timeless Chesterfields had sealed a partnership with an expat who was living in the country. The company’s managing director Matt Deighton says the firm’s Britishness is critical. “This is our most important USP and is the foundation of everything we have achieved in relation to our export sales,” he explains to Elite Global.
The internet really allowed Timeless Chesterfields to make the most of exports as it started selling directly to consumers via the web and an export department was launched in 2012 to make international sales more focused. “The export department came out of necessity,” says Deighton. He notes that the UK showroom team were also looking after exports for numerous years, which became overwhelming. “Setting up the export department was reliant on picking the right export sales manager, which we thankfully did,” he adds, highlighting just how “fundamental” the hire was for success.
Interestingly, while the Brand Britain element is helpful overseas, it doesn’t seem to have the same pull at home. “I would go as far to say that British manufacturing is respected more in the export markets than in the UK which can be frustrating at times,” Deighton claims, finding it something of a struggle to price match cheaper-made productions from Europe and Asia. “The Made in Britain angle is most prevalent when the customer is looking for quality.”
With exports to over 60 countries including the US, it stands to reason that organising processes can be difficult. “Logistics is and always will be the biggest challenge,” says Deighton. While Timeless Chesterfields has an in-house delivery team in the UK and manages shipping itself, it’s a different story internationally. “Many countries have their own unique challenges around customs which can sometimes be frustrating,” he continues. “The key to both of these challenges are selecting good partners who understand the various markets and have open communication around any issues that arise to ensure they are resolved quickly with minimal impact to the end customer.”
Although challenges may arise, Deighton believes that other British-built brands should “absolutely” look overseas.“They will need to do their homework and I would recommend starting small just to test the water and prove the various processes and refine and adapt as required,” he advises. “In doing so, any risk can be minimised and the learnings leveraged as new markets are explored.”
Based on its exporting longevity, Timeless Chesterfields has changed with the times to an extent but insists that keeping it classic can help. “You have to embrace how the export markets perceive the UK, which is stereotypically a quaint and somewhat nostalgic view of Britain which doesn’t necessarily sit comfortably with the modern Britain we know,” concludes Deighton. “Bowler hats, cups of tea and red post boxes are all to be celebrated.”