William Forshaw

William Forshaw, founder of Maxwell – Scott

‘Championing Great British design is key to our export success’: Maxwell – Scott chief talks exporting

Maxwell – Scott founder William Forshaw explains how launching dedicated websites for its core markets has helped the company expand its overseas presence…

This 'Around the World in 80 Trades' interview coincides with the PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards in association with HSBC, which is being held on 22 February in Leeds. For information on the event, to nominate or buy tickets, click here.


Founded in London back in 2002, Maxwell – Scott has established itself as a household name in the luxury bags sector over the past 15 years.

Its founder, William Forshaw, who now runs the business from York, is a convert from the city who launched the business after quitting his high profiled job during his early 20’s.

“After working in London, I noticed a severe lack of quality when observing businessmen’s briefcases whilst on the tube and in the office,” he told BQ.

“Inspired by my mother’s regular trips to Italy, I designed my very first Italian leather briefcase - the Paolo whilst working in the City.

“I then decided to leave my job in advertising and began selling the briefcases to businessmen on their lunch breaks in London. This is the moment Maxwell - Scott was born.”

Championing the finest leather craft, Maxwell – Scott’s collections range from business, travel and leisure for both men and women.

Flying the flag for UK design, its signature full-grain leather is naturally vegetable-tanned - a finish which creates a unique and desirable patina over time.

For Forshaw, the Designed in Britain tag and the company’s commitment to manufacturing using only the highest quality materials, is key to the company’s success.

“Due to retail’s ever-expanding dependence on the digital world, we turned to ecommerce in 2007 with the launch of our first online store,” he said.

“Fortunately, customers desire high quality all over the world, therefore Maxwell - Scott’s leather goods sold globally instantly.

“We currently export all our leather products from all collections entirely worldwide with the exception of a few countries, namely Russia, North Korea and Burma.”

Aiding the company’s ambitious export drive has also been the launch of a series of websites dedicated to each of its core markets.

Since 2007, Forshaw has gone on to launch websites bespoke for customers in the UK, US, Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland and Australia.

He said: “Since the launch of Maxwell - Scott’s first website in 2007, the company has always offered international delivery.

“We are now predominantly an ecommerce business so expanding the company worldwide has been vital to our success.

“Once you have the right contacts and a streamlined structure in place for your native country, it is easy to transfer this formula into other countries.

“Like everything in business, it’s all about developing relationships to secure the best deal. Once you have jumped this hurdle, everything else, in theory, should fall into place seamlessly.”

However, establishing itself as an exporting powerhouse hasn’t come without its challenges, as Forshaw pointed out:

“As we are based in Yorkshire, the most challenging part is finding native-speaking professionals from around the world to manage our sites.

“We have learned that it is vital to employ natives so that our international customers receive a localised and personal experience.

“As we offer such a high-quality product, we must ensure that our customer service is of the same quality, whether the customer is from London, Lisbon or Los Angeles. Native local knowledge is imperative to securing this standard.

“Luckily, we gained support from representatives of international couriers. At the start, we would always meet face-to-face on a regular basis in order to learn the main mechanics and policies involved in trading abroad. Understanding every part of the process is key to being efficient and cost-effective.”

Having hurdled these obstacles, exporting has now proven a perfect fit for Maxwell – Scott and Forshaw is enjoying the fruits of his labour.

He said: “Exporting our leather goods overseas has significantly developed and expanded our business as it has opened us up to so many additional markets.

“A major factor of Maxwell - Scott’s international success is that we champion Great British design - an aesthetic that is deemed to be highly prestigious and desirable by other cultures.

“We also ensure that our delivery rates remain highly competitive within the industry by developing good relationships with international couriers.

“As our goods have a relatively high price point, we are able to offer our overseas customers with special delivery offers to entice them. For example, on our US site, customers receive free delivery when their order exceeds US$150.”

So, what next for the business? Forshaw concludes: “In the near future, the Maxwell - Scott team plan to launch websites in China and South America.

“In five years time, we see the business developing further into bespoke products, luxury wholesale opportunities and corporate gifting.

“We are also hoping to see the Maxwell - Scott team expand further into PR, UX and digital marketing within the next five years.”

Forshaw’s top tips for exporters: “Gain contacts with industry professionals from the markets you are looking into and absorb as much information from them as possible.

“This will give you the insight and the knowledge necessary to ensure that your product or service is worthy of export.”