Case study

Pickering Interfaces grows by 50% in China with help from UKTI

Essex based signal switching company uses UKTI’s Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) to develop its exports in the Chinese market.

Shaun Fuller of Pickering Interfaces
Shaun Fuller of Pickering Interfaces

Limited growth prospects in well-established markets in Europe and north America led Pickering Interfaces to seek help in developing a clear export strategy for China.

Advice from UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) has resulted in turnover increasing by 50% in China turnover over the last year. Pickering Interfaces continues to meet regularly with their International Trade Advisor (ITA) to keep them motivated and further develop their business in the Asia Pacific region.

Meeting a UKTI International Trade Advisor

Pickering Interfaces Director Ian Johnston and east Asian Market Development Manager Shaun Fuller sought advice from a UKTI ITA early in 2013 with a view to building on their existing presence in China.

Shaun Fuller said,

With less obvious potential for additional growth in our Western markets we wanted to focus more of our attention on Asia, specifically China.

We already had a presence there, but sales weren’t living up to their full potential; we needed to become more intentional about ramping up growth.

They met with UKTI East of England ITA Keith Adams whose advice included:

  • researching the market thoroughly
  • consider sourcing multiple agents to encourage healthy competition
  • attending UKTI workshops and seminars on China to increase their understanding of the market
  • working with China-Britain Business Council (CBBC)

Researching Chinese market

Pickering Interfaces commissioned market research in March 2013 using UKTI’s OMIS service. Keith Adams advised them to narrow the focus of the report to 2 to 3 main areas to keep the costs down.

Shaun Fuller said,

We wanted to understand our competitors better, to give some context to the prices that our existing agent was charging in China.

The OMIS showed us, quite clearly, that there were potential competitive issues, a key factor in sales not fulfilling their potential; apparently this is not uncommon.

This research provided by UKTI staff in China supplemented the company’s own internet-based research.

Pickering Interfaces commissioned a second OMIS in Spring 2014 with a specific focus on finding a second agent.

Ian Johnston said,

The OMIS flagged up several possible matches and UKTI put together a schedule that would help us make the most of a planned visit to the country, enabling us to go round and meet potential agents at their premises.

The OMIS was useful in providing a context for our decision-making.

The company finally opted to work with an agent they’d identified ahead of the report. However, interviewing other prospective agents gave them perspective and helped clarify their preferred candidate was a good choice.

Company turnover has since increased by 50% in China.

Ian Johnston said,

It’s still early days, but it looks like the presence of a second agent has pushed our initial agent to become much more competitive.

Pickering Interfaces in now in the process of setting up a company in China to co-ordinate the 2 agents and handle marketing activities for the region.

CBBC supported the company at each stage providing advice on tendering for legal and accountancy firms, and information on salary structures and costs.

Developing export knowledge

Pickering Interfaces joined UKTI’s Gateway to Global Growth programme. This gave them the tools and know-how needed to take their export strategy to the next level.

Shaun Fuller said,

The courses at Cranfield School of Management have been fantastic.

They condense the key parts of an MBA down to 2 days of content. Through various seminars and events we’ve educated ourselves on business culture in Asia and a broad range of export issues.

Japan

The changes made in China have set them up for further growth in the Asia Pacific region. They commissioned a further OMIS for Japan, their secondary target market in the region.

Shaun Fuller said,

We now have a new agent in this country and an incentive to push ahead.

About Pickering Interfaces

Pickering Interfaces was founded in 1998 and is based in Clacton-on-Sea.

It supplies the automotive, military, aerospace and telecommunications industries with long-lasting and reliable signal switching and sensor emulation products that improve productivity.

Fast facts

Company Pickering Interfaces
Industry Electronics
UKTI services OMIS; Gateway to Global Growth
Website www.pickeringtest.com
Published 27 March 2015