London exporters secure £41m worth of sales thanks to UKEF support

Around the world in 80 trades: Duo UK

Zoe Brimelow, brand director at Duo UK gives us an insight into how exporting has helped them reach customers across the globe...

What does your company do?

Duo UK has secured its position in the packaging industry as one of the most trusted UK packaging manufacturers, suppliers and distributors to some of the UK’s leading brands in retail, ecommerce and industrial.


When was your company launched, who by and why?

Founder and chairman David Brimelow established Duo UK in 1988.  


How long has the company been exporting?

We have been exporting for around five years but in the last two years the volume of products we distribute outside of the UK has grown significantly.


What do you currently export, and where to?

We export packaging products produced in our UK factories and from our international manufacturing partners to locations including New Zealand, America, Australia, Poland and Germany.

This year we have established warehousing facilities in USA, Australia and Germany to store our customer’s products and to ensure we can offer our international clients the same delivery lead times as our UK customers.


What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take?

Our products are used all around the world and over the years this has generated new business enquiries from businesses outside of the UK. Also, as our customers have entered new territories, we have adapted to supply to these locations to enable continuity of their supply chain - this has been the real game changer.

It was quite straight forward for us to deliver our products around the world however, the lead times were still long and not suitable to support a growing online retail business which many of our customers are. We knew we had to do something to improve this and we challenged ourselves to offer the same UK lead-time in the new territories.

We did this by establishing warehouses to stock our products in key locations plus developing an online customer ePortal enabling our customers to order their products and have access to information relating to their products at the touch of a button 24/7.


How much of your business now amounts to exports?

Our international sales equate to around 5% of our total turnover.


What is most challenging thing about exporting?

Definitely understanding the rules and regulations of new territories - our number one focus was to deliver the same customer experience and high service levels that our UK customers receive to our international clients, but of course every country has its own set of rules that you have to follow.


Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?

Our supply chain partners were invaluable. They were the first people we reached out to for advice and as they have a good understand of our business already their advice was relevant and truly helpful. We also talked to friends in business who have been on a similar journey to hear their real life stories - the more you talk to people about their positive experience of exporting, the more potential you see there!


What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?

Any business can find plenty of reasons not to start trading internationally, but in our opinion, you’ve got to take some risks and have the belief in your business and your team that you will be successful. Go for it!


Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in five years’ time?

The secret behind the success of Duo to date is because we are agile and move quickly when we see an opportunity, so who knows which exciting new territories we’ll be in the next five years.


Exporting and international trade remain high on the UK Government’s economic growth agenda and the PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards, in association with HSBC, are about recognising the excellence in those emerging, wealth creating companies that are selling their products, services and expertise in scores of overseas markets.

To find out more about the awards, click here.