A learning experience

The far horizon
The far horizon

My Nametags was set up in 2004, by which time Norwegian MD Lars Andersen already had two young children of his own, allowing him to identify a gap in the market for high-quality name tags for children’s clothing, shoes and belongings such as lunch boxes, PE kit bags and books…

Originally available as iron-on labels, these were later expanded to include stick-on versions.

After building up the business in the UK, Ireland was the company’s first overseas market, “primarily because it was easier, as they also speak English there,” he notes. Linguistic preferences also informed the firm’s choice of second overseas market, as Lars points out: “I’m a French speaker, so that was a driver behind our choice to set up there.”

Language can be an area fraught with difficulty: “in the likes of Italy, English is seen as cool , but in France they weren’t keen on an English name, so we decided on calling the product ‘Eticol‘, a mix of the French words for label, school and [to] stick.”

Dealing with overseas markets can present its own challenges, as Lars knows only too well. Whereas in Ireland for instance there is already a good understanding of the product and customers just have to be convinced of the quality, in Italy it is a question of educating the parents, who may not appreciate the need for their children to use the labels in the first place.

Cultural issues also come into the equation; in the UK schools are happy to endorse the product to parents, but in France and Italy, where schools are seen as a public service, it is viewed as “a conflict of interest”, according to Lars.

He advises that companies interested in exporting should look into how much can be done from their home market, thereby obviating the need to set up local offices abroad. The company hires native speakers of the languages where it does business to staff its customer service teams, who are all based at its offices in southwest London.

Mynametags now exports to 60 countries globally and, although Europe represents the bulk of its business, Lars reports that they are geared up to deliver around the world.

“We visited Shanghai International Music Fair last year and made initial contact with Shanghai Musical Instruments. We met again at Frankfurt Music Fair, facilitated by the Music Industries Association, and struck the deal to supply them with 100 pianos a year for the next five years.”

Adam Cox, managing director of Yorkshire Pianos and a qualified piano technician

“So far, overseas sales represent eight per cent of turnover but we want to do more. Our research and design centre allows us to understand local markets and create outfits specifically for local cultures which, although they may differ, have a common factor of appreciating quality and value. We are using a specialist import/export service and have sought help in locating potential trading partners, on compliance issues and on market reports for various countries including the US and Germany.”

Jeffrey Fearnley, director of fancy dress costume manufacturer Fun Shack (UK) Ltd