Brian Dakers, international trade manager for North East England Chamber of Commerce takes a peek into the not too distant future at the prospects for the region’s exporters.
The months following the outcome of the EU referendum have passed incredibly quickly. When the referendum took place to decide whether the UK would remain a member of the EU, David Cameron was Prime Minister, Roy Hodgson England football manager, and the world an ever shrinking place in which to do business. Now some months on, only one of those statements remains true.
While the business landscape is constantly referenced in the media, and claims and counter claims with regard to the outcome of the vote are exchanged like a baseline rally, the region has continued to make and produce goods and services wanted in all corners of the globe. Although the most recently released trade statistics for NE England plc were hardly a dramatic improvement on the periods preceding, a number of positives can be drawn. The increased breadth, for example, suggesting an underlying resilience, particularly in light of the devastating closure of the SSI steelworks on Teesside, which accounted for hundreds of millions of the region’s total goods exports. When coupled with the pressures faced by the region’s oil and gas businesses, small percentage increases are certainly welcome.
Since the start of the calendar year, we at the Chamber have worked with nearly 100 businesses which are either new to exporting, or trading with a new market for the first time. While these may not attract headlines such as those attached to our largest sectors, they do underline one constant. Our region is full of businesses and individuals with the ingenuity and determination to succeed anywhere.
While market access might be a rather murky topic at present, connectivity is an area where the region is able to see clearer skies. Newcastle International Airport’s recent announcements on new routes to Poland have been warmly received by businesses trading across a range of sectors. Although the United Airlines decision to discontinue the direct flight to New York was a disappointment, hub connectivity provided by Dublin and Heathrow ensures businesses have great connectivity with the US, our largest trading partner.
With the Emirates daily service experiencing consistently high demand for both seats and cargo hold space, it is surely a matter of time before capacity is added. Given the fact the route has just celebrated its ninth birthday, and has already upped the size of the aircraft once, this is a great indicator of our exporters’ appetite to get out there and seize the opportunities available, wherever they are.
One great example of this is Prima Cheese. A family business operating out of Seaham. The company looked at exporting its dairy products at the beginning of this decade. I was privileged to be involved from the beginning, as the company worked with the UKTI (now rebranded as Department of International Trade), and were then referred to the Chamber for support with market entry requirements, personnel development and export documentation.
The company has since turned into one of the region’s best success stories, increasing headcount, and adding significant percentages to the turnover. It is no coincidence the company now works with more than 20 markets, and the vast majority are served by the Emirates route.
Successes such as those mentioned are of course attributable to a number of factors. While circumstances are far from perfect, I am privileged to work with businesses to whom challenges are there for besting, and the world there for the taking. I look forward to seeing how we capitalise further as a region in the months and years to come.
The Chamber’s export team works closely with a range of businesses helping them to successfully transport their goods around the world.
A global Northumberland business has a £275,000 tropical tree order for the Middle East. Treelocate, based in Belford outside Berwick, exports artificial plants and trees to leisure and hospitality clients around the world and one of its most recent contracts was for 17 seven metre olive trees for the 7* Four Seasons Hotel in Bahrain.
Established in a small barn by brothers Mark and Jonny Nesbitt in 1995 after they bought a consignment of artificial trees from Asia, the business has grown to employ 40 people. It is now a £4m turnover business which manufactures products from large scale, bespoke flower arrangements to handmade trees and shrubs, from a four acre site.
Treelocate has used the NECC International trade team since it started exporting to help them with their business. Mark said: “We initially worked with interior landscapers and supplied quite simple products for offices where live trees would have struggled to survive. Our customer base then expanded to include a huge range of outlets such as garden centres, USA theme parks and supermarkets.”
The global reach of Treelocate extends to Dubai International Airport and a recent project for the head office of ANZ Bank in Christchurch. And in keeping with the company’s contracts with unusual countries, where it might not be expected to have artificial planting, it has also supplied artificial trees to Norway.
To help cope with increased demand from the Middle East, four years ago Treelocate set up a Dubai office with six people based there and it also has an agent in Mongolia who specialises in shopping centre contracts using their service.
They have also developed their own brand to make the various trees and foliage called ‘firesilx’ which is fire retardant and UVsilx for exterior locations where the products need to be tough and not fade.