Orwell and Goode recently exhibited at their first overseas trade show in Japan. Yes you read correct, we choose Japan as our first! One of our employee’s, Miho, is Japanese and we had always chatted about what a bonus this was if we ever went to Japan, so the idea was always there.
Miho gave advice on what she thought would sell well in Japan, it became apparent that we had a gap in our products for exporting; size & price. Our best sellers are bulky and expensive so we decided on a new collection and some new smaller items needed to be considered. We designed some new pouch purses, tote bags, napkin rings, storage pots and smaller cushions. I was keen to stick with screen-printing and using Scottish linen to keep our product set apart from the mass-produced goods.
We use names like ‘Dreich’ and ‘Drookit’ for our designs to solidify our Scottish-ness! It was a fun story and a bit of banter to explain that Scotland had so many words for rain and drookit meaning soaked through; it filled the stereotype of our weather here. Our dashes and blobs represented rain, arrows where tips of pine trees and another pattern was named Plough, representing the agricultural land in the Borders. One pouffe was named ‘Shaw’ an old Borders word for a wooded area. They loved this story of our designs!
We were not prepared for the variety of business styles; it wasn’t just so clear cut as distributor, agent or retailer. The businesses in Japan appear also to have many layers in their decision making. We had unexpected interest from a lot of interior specifier’s, which highlighted an opportunity we had not considered before, we actually got more business cards from this sector than any other. There was a good mix of very large companies and smaller independent stores. We got some great advice and tips from our exhibitor neighbour’s, which was really valuable.
We learned that small is key in Japan, sounds quite obvious now, our art prints and lampshades received attention but where just too big to work with city living. We got orders at the show and have had a few more upon returning. We are still working our way through our contacts but feel confident we have made a positive start in Japan.
Overall we feel our trip was a success and understand there is still a lot of work to do moving forward. We have been invited to return in November for a trade mission being held at the British Embassy in Tokyo. Fingers crossed we can make it to this event as it would be a fantastic opportunity to meet again with our key leads and a chance to meet new carefully selected buyers.
Being part of the Borders Exporters group gives me the confidence to make bold decisions like this, and I know there will always be members who have been there and done that and willing to share their experience. It’s a very valuable asset in the Borders and warming to see so many businesses come together to grow together.