If you’re looking to sell your products into the UK, here’s an update on how the market operates – and how to capitalise on a consumer audience keen on innovation.
PR Direct often hears from international brands how difficult the UK market is. Take heart! It’s not difficult just “different” – even compared to our mainland European cousins (and that’s before Brexit even happens!)
You can definitely see that difference in the sizes and shapes of cookware or the type of tools & gadgets that are popular with UK consumers. But it is changing, with the increase in the number of TV programmes, cookbooks and influencers across social media bringing more global cooking and lifestyle themes to their audiences.
UK consumers are quite adventurous and ready to try new products and trends. Whether they stay the course is another matter but it’s the British way to ‘give it a go’! Therefore, in recent years, the market has seen great success in robotic vacuums, health-focused cookware and gadgets and – very prevalent during 2018 – anything that is plastic-free or linked with the reduction in single-use plastic.
Most likely what is considered “difficult” is retail trade in the UK. While the high streets do include independent stores, the UK is not on a par with countries like Italy or Spain and most of the high street housewares retailing is done through store groups like John Lewis Partnership and specialty outlets like Lakeland or Steamer Trading. Supermarkets too have increased their cookshop offering and there are other specialty interiors store groups like Dunelm with extensive cookshops and discount retailers like Home Bargains and B&M. These retailers tend to be based out of town. Additionally there are online retailers – as there are everywhere in this increasingly global marketplace. So we have Amazon dominating, as well as Wayfair, but also our home-grown e-tailers like Very and style-orientated outlets like Amara and Trouva, the online portal for independents.
They are online businesses that have not had a physical presence in out-of-town retail parks or on the high street (although Amazon in the US of course is dipping its toes in that particular water!). But as the number of brick & mortar stores shrink, one of the obvious ways forward is to have a presence online. Most retailers, regardless of size, are doing just that – and this will only grow.
Recapping on the number and type of outlets that sell housewares does underline that the UK consumer has a lot of choice when it comes to purchase. But that’s against a backdrop of a population which, while at 64 million is one of the largest in Europe, it is still only one and a half times the size of California! Therefore, volumes are not US-style volumes and this can have an impact how or even if a supplier comes into the market. Is there enough margin in your business to support working with a distributor?
What can often happen is that store groups look to work with their existing suppliers to bring in new lines. Many are under scrutiny from their managers or shareholders with the pressures of bottom line and the resolve to reduce the number of suppliers on their books. PR Direct knows of one UK distributor which is frequently approached by a major store group with which they deal and are asked to bring in individual lines or ranges from third parties, as the store group has reached its quota of suppliers.
This doesn’t mean to say you won’t get a listing as a newbie, but it is worth exploring the established distributor model as well.
Communication remains an important part of any strategy when it comes to entering a new market or maintaining your presence. That can be as simple as making sure you’re reading the relevant trade press (and letting them know about your products) to regionalising your social media if you can. If you’re not embarking on a consumer media campaign straight away (pushing your products through shopping pages etc. – which only works if you have a retail outlet or an e-commerce brand site for the UK) then social media is your shop window.
A final tip: in the UK it’s common for retailers to ask suppliers to contribute funds to catalogues, online campaigns and social media as well as supporting the retailer’s PR activity or embarking on their own. Managing those expectations at the start of the relationship can be key to your long-term success with that retailer!
PR Direct is a UK-based housewares PR specialist working with various brands including: GreenPan, Typhoon, Stasher, BIA, Artland and BergHOFF. For more information on working in the UK contact Sarah Selzer or Mark Chapman at PR Direct – +44 (0)1244 556777