BHETA comment: The secret to export success

According to experts, getting face-to-face with potential and current customers is how to sell hand tools overseas, writes Paul Grinsell, Home Improvement Sector Director at the British Home Enhancement Trade Association (BHETA)…

With The Federation of British Hand Tool Manufacturers (FBHTM) now joined with The British Home Enhancement Trade Association (BHETA) (as of 1 January) and participating fully in the Association’s many events, export in the hand tools sector came into fresh focus at The Future for International Trade conference organised jointly by BHETA, Gardenex and PetQuip.

Speakers from the worlds of Westminster politics, international economic forecasting, international law and trade compliance, worldwide retail trends and digital platforms for export entertained around 100 delegates from supplier companies and the content ranged across trends in retailing to finding and evaluating export markets to how to tackle the practical detail.

Among the many experts sharing their knowledge and track record was Brett Russell, Spear & Jackson’s regional sales manager for the Middle East and Asia, who outlined his company’s extensive experience of how a British hand tool brand can fare in terms of sales across the world.

One of the points Brett made was the importance of regular face-to-face dialogue with overseas customers and prospects. The ‘If you don’t go, you don’t get’ cliché is 100% true and to keep ahead of competitors it was vital to visit contacts regularly. Doing so successfully requires homework; and not just about the usual essentials like product, routes to the end customer, trends and gaps in the market. It is vital, said Brett to understand and then have the flexibility to allow for cultural differences and differences in business practice and the expectation that this will be necessary should be built into any approach.

Brett also cited the importance of exhibiting at overseas exhibitions - a must for new and established exporters. Not only are they an obvious way to interface with potential new customers, they were also a good way of getting the brand seen, and for getting buyers familiar with seeing it. In particular, it was important to be persistent and exhibit regularly, partly as prospective relationships may take more than one such encounter to develop and partly to maintain focus on the brand as an international operator.

Focus on the brand can in itself be significant also, just as in  the home market. One aspect of branding that is important in export is the use of the Union Jack. In Spear & Jacksons’ experience,
the use of the British flag was a strong positive in terms of packaging and presentation, with perceived UK values of innovation and engineering / fabrication heritage seen as desirable by many overseas buyers in the tools market.

Further guidance on exporting tools, including in-depth export information and advice was provided throughout the conference by a range of export service providers including specialists in translations, logistics, trend analysis, business travel and research grants.

As BHETA’s Executive Director, Will Jones, who chairs BHETA’s Export Committee, says: “BHETA can pull together a wealth of experience and practical advice on export from among its members and associate members and our many new tools supplier members can really take advantage of this if they are not doing so already. There does appear to be a serious opportunity for overseas trade in this market place and I look forward to seeing more and more of our members exploring the options with us.”

For more information about BHETA and its services and events, contact the Member Services Team on 0121 237 1130 or visit the website

This article was originally published in the April 2019 edition of Torque Magazine. Read the full magazine online here or subscribe for free