By David Poole, Managing Director Sales, UK South, FedEx Express
Thanks to its long and rich history, Britain enjoys a strong reputation all over the world – and this extends to British businesses and products. The demand for British labelled exports is continuing to rise and the government has a vision for 100,000 more SMEs to join the ranks of exporters, which has the potential to help reduce the UK’s trade deficit. 
‘Brand Britain’ has evolved over the years but its true value is becoming increasingly apparent. Today, SMEs from a wide variety of sectors are enjoying fast international growth and more are expanding overseas every day. The question is: how can SMEs make the most of the opportunities that ‘Brand Britain’ offers?
At FedEx, we work extensively with small businesses who are exporting for the first time, or are looking to expand into new markets. So, we wanted to share some top tips on how to make the most of your UK heritage, using the real world example of Swaine Adeney Brigg. The history of the British company goes back to 1750 starting in St. James, London. Today, they hand craft the famous Brigg umbrellas and walking sticks along with Swaine Adeney luxury bridle leather luggage, holdalls, gentlemen’s attaché cases and folios. Swaine Adeney Brigg is already enjoying huge growth overseas thanks to its rich history and long-held traditions.
- Understand where British products and services are most revered
Ensure you research your target market before making any big decisions, such as overhauling your entire brand. You should look for countries that have a high regard for British products, particularly in your own sector. At Swaine Adeney Brigg, 38% of its shipments go to the US alone where it’s well known that British luxury products are desirable. A natural and fruitful fit for a brand like this.
The internet is a good resource for research, as are trade bodies such as UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). It’s also worth speaking to your logistics provider who may be able to offer expert on-the-ground insight.
- Consider making Britishness an integral part of package design
The obvious way to do this is to add a Union Jack flag, or a “made in Britain” label, but this isn’t always possible or suitable and there are more subtle ways of doing this as well. For a high-end brand such as Swaine Adeney Brigg, the nuances of font, tone of voice and a sense of provenance can combine even more powerfully. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution, the key is to find out what works for your business, and your target market.
- Offering a high level of customer service
While Britain has a reputation for providing quality goods, it also has a reputation for trustworthiness, politeness and professionalism. Perhaps the best way to ensure this comes across is to offer first-rate customer service – something which is easier said than done when your customers are half the world away.
Choosing the right transport provider is critical to this – ensuring quality service is delivered from start to finish is crucial in gaining customer loyalty. “With many of our goods becoming family heirlooms, it’s very important that from design to delivery our products are respected and cared for,” says David Albon, commercial director at Swaine Adeney Brigg. The British brand offers maintenance and restoration services for all goods and uses FedEx to return any international shipments so they can be brought back to the UK for restoration and then sent back to the customer.. This ensures that should a customer need a new umbrella canopy, everything is dealt with seamlessly right up to delivering the product back to their door. By offering such a service, Swaine Adeney Brigg is able to give a supremely high level of customer service, years after the sale is complete.
Tapping into ‘Brand Britain’ could be a powerful use of time and resources and could grow your business significantly. Gaining insight from other brands and speaking to your logistics provider, who has a sophisticated understanding of the export market and the challenges that this brings, will set you in good stead for success.
Case Study: Swaine Adeney Brigg: quintessentially British; globally admired
Dating back to 1750, Swaine Adeney Brigg’s reputation for quality and excellence is long-established. From what started out as a small equestrian whip making business in Piccadilly, London, the brand’s prestige for high-quality, bespoke goods has grown significantly.
Swaine Adeney Brigg, a British manufacturer and retailer of fine, hand-crafted leather goods and umbrellas, offers a vast selection of bespoke products. Over the years, it has designed attaché cases for famous film stars, while the Brigg umbrellas have long been a favourite of the British Royal family. Each new addition to the Swaine Adeney Brigg collection has served to enhance the company’s reputation and its position in the ‘Brand Britain’ movement – attracting customers from all over the world, including the US, South East Asia, Europe and Australia. Swaine Adeney Brigg’s attention to detail is key to the brand’s success. The brand offers bespoke personalisation options to fulfil customer’s individual requirements around the world.
“The phrase ‘‘handmade in England’’ is held in extremely high regard within the global marketplace, and is one that sits at the very heart of Swaine Adeney Brigg,” says David Albon, Commercial Director at Swaine Adeney Brigg. “We pride ourselves in creating truly unique designs. As a British manufacturer and retailer, the art of British craftsmanship is something we’re very loyal to. From the colour of the leather, to the material of the lining and our offering of personalised monogram embossing, the service for our leather products is truly unique. The same is true for our Brigg umbrellas, with customers able to select a variety of details, ranging from the colour of the canopy to the type wood used for the handle.”
Keep Calm and…Go Global
In order to provide a premium delivery service to match its fine-quality products, Swaine Adeney Brigg needed a logistics provider with a global reputation to help nurture its relationships with customers overseas. FedEx was a natural choice, and installed the web –based shipping application – FedEx Ship Manager™ – that allows customers to prepare shipments, find rates and transit times and schedule pick-ups. This has helped bolster e-commerce sales abroad.
“As our client list and product collection flourished, speed and quality of service became more important than ever, so we wanted a provider that could deliver to the highest of standards. By going above and beyond a simple A to B delivery service, FedEx has firmly established itself as a valuable extension of our company and now represents us globally,” says David.
Swaine Adeney Brigg had a number of existing systems in place looking after everything from order generation to tracking each with different, and often conflicting, processes. Yet in under eight weeks, FedEx fully integrated and streamlined its systems with no dip in activity. Now Swaine Adeney Brigg can ship to customers near and far as soon as the final stitch is sown.
It is of paramount importance that the fine-quality products are handled well and arrive in the same condition as when they leave the UK. With many of the products crafted from leather, they can be easily damaged if not cared for in the correct way. As well as offering next business day and day/time-definite services, FedEx also handles the return process so any international shipments can be brought back to the UK for restoration and then sent back to the customer. “This means if an umbrella comes to us from Japan needing a new canopy, or a briefcase from North America needing new clasps, the item can enter the country as a temporary import and be relieved of tax”, explains David. “FedEx seamlessly orchestrates all of this for us and our customers never cease to be amazed at this capability; FedEx embodies our premium service from start to finish and respects the nature of our products.”
With 38% of Swaine Adeney Brigg’s shipments now going to the US alone, the company’s exporting activity is leading its growth. “FedEx has given us the confidence to expand our global reach because we know we’re able to provide our excellent level of service near and far,” states David. “We’ve overcome the challenges we experienced with other providers, and now with the help of FedEx are further establishing our presence and looking more strategically at current and growing markets.”
With a focus on e-commerce and growing its social media persona, Swaine Adeney Brigg is primed to flourish in markets near and far. It has its eye on the expanding into China and considering the reputation of Brand Britain has never been stronger, 2017 is set to be the year for the genteel.