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I’ve heard so many stories about how expanding globally can send your business to the graveyard, quicker and faster than anything you ever imagined. If you’re big enough you can weather the storm: for example M&S, Cath Kidston and Tesco all entered the US market and failed. It makes for scary reading frankly. It’s not for the faint hearted but I believe the rewards outweigh the risks, although I’m not naïve about it. I know that the complexities and the processes to drive growth are immense.

Here are some things I’ve been learning as we tentatively begin trying to expand beyond the UK market. I hope they help you out if you are thinking of taking a similar path.

  1. Have enough resources to surmount all the international regulations, because there will be a lot of them! They can be expensive but if you don’t allow for the funds in the first place you are screwed.

    2. Do what you can to learn about some of the language, behaviour and cultural barriers before doing business overseas. It’s just good manners and common sense.

    3. Key players in your business will inevitably need to move overseas at some point, to oversee operations. This can be good and bad for your biz, first of all it can be a critical drain on the team in your own country but on the plus side it means things are implemented your way from the get-go and you hit the ground running.

    4. To have any chance of success at all research the new territories you are thinking of entering. Your brand will not automatically translate and start taking huge sums. Not even the big boys can guarantee that. For example our two big markets outside the UK are the US and Japan and both are on my hitlist as places we want to expand the brand into. (And holiday to, but that’s a different matter!) This doesn’t involve flying in and opening a store or stores (that entails millions of bucks). Instead we start small, do the trade shows, get the contacts and build up from there. We’re constantly developing, tweaking and strategizing.

    5. Prepare a SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats – against your competition. Basically, will this new market buy your products is the question.

    6. Put in place an effective sales strategy, marketing strategy, sales delivery and branding strategy. These won’t just be cookie cutters of your existing strategies for your own market either – different place, different plans. It’s a lot of work!

I could go on and on with all these pointers. I would advise doing huge amounts of biz reading like I am right now, as at some point it all becomes overload! It’s firmly on my weekend list – at the end of a working day it feels too daunting after pulling crazy hours, but on my comfy George Smith on a sunny Sunday afternoon I’m like YES, we’re doing this. Happy Friday everyone.


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