Exporting is a natural part of business when you sell skiing, snowboarding, and surfing equipment. Jim Berkeley, CEO of Freeze Pro Shop, explains how the business started trading internationally and how the company overcomes the challenges involved.
Freeze Pro Shop’s customers are based all over the world, and many of their UK customers travel far and wide to take part in outdoor sports and activities, so it was this familiarity with travel that first led the business to start selling internationally.
Jim Berkeley, CEO of Freeze Pro Shop, said: “We started exporting because so many of us who work for Freeze are skiers, snowboarders or surfers and were doing that in various parts of the world, we met so many other enthusiasts who loved the adventure and the adrenalin.
“Because we were specialising in performance equipment we felt like we could reach out to those customers. That was the start of why we built the website, and once we built the website we focused on those sports, then it didn’t take long for customers to find us and start shopping with us.”
Being a specialist retailer, Freeze Pro Shop has built up a following of loyal customers in countries like the USA, Australia, and South Korea. “We have a lot of customers who come back to us season after season.” Jim says, “they help us to shape our product ranges and we really value that. I think the biggest success for us is building these relationships with customers.”
Even when exporting is such a core part of the business, there can still be barriers to trading internationally. Jim explained: “It is challenging to export, and over the last five years the regulations around exporting have tightened massively. Logistics is a big challenge; what we sell is quite big stuff. We could sell a surfboard, or a pair of skis or ski boots and they could be getting shipped to New Zealand or Argentina and logistically that can be quite challenging. You can’t just stick something in the post anymore; it’s become a lot more regulated.
“One of the challenges for us is to ensure that we’re always on the front foot and we’re doing everything correctly, providing the best possible service and the best range and value. That gives us an advantage over our competition because we react quickly to changes and it’s become part of what we do.”
eCommerce is at the heart of Freeze Pro Shop’s business, and accounts for more than 85% of its annual turnover.
With eCommerce serving as a low-cost mechanism for accessing new markets, Freeze did not need to raise investment to begin its export journey, and instead grew international sales naturally from its online presence. “We have taken our own money and invested it.” Jim explains, “It has been a very organic process. We have had some support from Scottish Enterprise, but we haven’t had any major outside investment.”
Scottish Enterprise acted as a sounding board for Freeze, working with the company for the last three years.
Jim said: “I think the most important thing for the Scottish economy is to keep facing outwards, be brave and bring revenue into the economy from outside, this enables us to grow beyond what our immediate economy can deliver; creating opportunity, driving creativity, and keeping the ‘smarts’ within Scotland.
“Scottish Enterprise has supported us in various stages of our exporting journey and has given us access to training and experts in logistics, technology, legal and HR.”
Jim says that good advice has also guided the business as it started up and started exporting, “I think the best advice I received was to always put service first and price second.” He said, “Great service is appreciated all around the world. We try to get product to people at the best price, as quickly as we can. It can take us 48 hours to get a pair of ski boots to Sydney. We use fantastic local logistics business to ensure that.
“When you start to export, you have to be very clear who the customer is. If you’re clear on who your customer is, you can communicate with them and you can sell them what they want.”
With a strong reputation for selling overseas, Freeze Pro Shop is now ready to build on that reputation and begin to offer a more personalised service. Jim said: “We want to personalise customer experience so if you’re in France you get a Freeze experience that is aligned with your currency, culture and language. Personalisation is a key feature as we trade in different territories.
“We’re definitely now in the second phase of our journey. We’ve done well locally but we now aspire to be a leading online retailer of winter sports and outdoor sports products. There are some successful companies in America and on the continent, we look to these businesses and think we can be should be able to be as good as them in every respect, so while we’ve been happy to be a successful local business, we now want to be a successful international business on a true international scale.”
You can get support to find out more about exporting, develop an export plan or grow your current export sales by visiting the Scottish Enterprise website.
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement