The best of the North West’s exporters gathered today in Cheshire to pledge their support for UK Trade & Investment’s Export Challenge.

Seventeen of the twenty North West winners of the 2012 Queen’s Award for International Trade attended a celebratory lunch event in Knutsford to meet fellow success stories and to hear about how they can help UKTI North West encourage 1000 new companies onto the export ladder this year, by becoming regional champions for international trade.

The Queen’s Awards are highly prestigious awards for outstanding achievement by UK businesses, judged to a demanding level.  In order to win an International Trade Award, businesses must be able to demonstrate substantial growth in overseas earnings and commercial success as a result of exports at a level considered ‘outstanding’ for relative business size and business sector.

Companies from across the North West were represented at the event, including Nichols Plc from Merseyside who manufacture the globally popular Vimto soft drinks range, Oliver Valvetek from Knutsford, Cheshire, who supply sub-sea equipment to control oil and gas flows and Regatta Ltd from Manchester, manufacturers of high quality outdoor clothing, footwear and accessories.

Three companies from Lancashire – technical textile firm BMP Europe Ltd from Accrington, Burnley-based Colonial Gifts, and Brisbane Moss from Todmorden who produce corduroy, moleskin, velvet and cottons also demonstrated the wide range of sectors currently enjoying success overseas.

Fibrevision Ltd from Macclesfield has exported almost 100% of its production right from the beginning, initially to Europe and the USA but more recently to the Asian tiger economies and BRIC markets as the textile industry has developed.

Managing Director Malcolm Hinchcliffe says he is very happy to act as a champion for exporting, and offers advice to new and inexperienced exporters.

He says “Success in exports comes from the same key factors as success in a home market – market knowledge and delivering the right product at the right price with excellent support and service.  In our case as a small company dealing in the B2b sector, market knowledge is developed by building up a good network of local representatives.  Firms need to establish good contacts in each market to develop a deep understanding of what customers really require.”

Southport firm Inciner8 relies heavily on export markets, with over 90% of production currently shipped overseas.  The company has experienced over 130% growth in the past three years.

Managing Director Vince Ferguson is another champion of market research.  He says, “We firmly promote our products as being ‘British Made’ and are proud to say that British products are still highly regarded in many countries throughout the world.  Our advice to new exporters would be to research every country thoroughly before entering that market.  I would also highly recommend the use of dealerships or agents in countries as – given the training and support – agents can be your local salesperson and direct route for sales.  In the early stages we made use of the help available through UKTI with grand funding and also the services available from the overseas trade officers.”

Also attending the event were JD Hughes Group Plc from Stockport.  Their export success is built on long term objectives, and the company has an international distribution network headed up with wholly owned regional offices in Germany, North America and the Middle East.

Export Sales Manager Paul Darlington says, “We would be delighted to pass on our experience and knowledge to other North West businesses.  I would say to do your research, and that there is lots of help and support for new exporters.  UKTI and EIC are two good examples.  Make a plan, make sure it includes some financials, and if you are unsure visit the market, attend an overseas exhibition or participate in a trade mission which is a great way of gaining lots of knowledge for a relatively small investment.”

Clive Drinkwater, Director of UKTI North West, said,

“We were delighted to host an event for the worthy winners of the Queen’s Award for International Trade during Jubilee Month.  The fact that we have so many winners from the North West shows what fantastic companies we have in the region, which continues to be the country’s biggest exporter outside the South East.

“The North West’s prosperity over the coming years will not stem from domestic markets alone, and we want to ensure that the region’s firms are not just trading abroad, but thriving there and following the example of the Queen’s Award winners here today.

“I am challenging the North West to find 1000 new exporting companies in 2012 – a demanding target but one I believe the region can rise to with the help of companies like the ones here today.  I see these businesses as champions for international trade, and an inspiration for fledgling companies, and we are calling on them today to help us achieve our export ambitions for the region.”