Case study

Tangle Teezer sells overseas with UK government support

UK government helped Tangle Teezer find distributors for its revolutionary hair care product in South Africa, Germany and China.

Shaun Pulfrey, CEO of Tangle Teezer Limited
Shaun Pulfrey, CEO of Tangle Teezer Limited

This company was assisted by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) , which has sinced moved to the Department for International Trade (DIT).

London based hair colourist Shaun Pulfrey’s company Tangle Teezer Limited has worked closely with UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) since it launched in the UK in 2008. Shaun’s invention, the Tangle Teezer®, deals with hair tangles. It glides through wet or dry hair, flicking tangles apart with no tugging or yanking.

UKTI has worked with Tangle Teezer to help the company break into new markets. The company took part in UKTI services including the Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) to research the South African and German markets and find distributors

Shaun Pulfrey, Chief Executive Office (CEO) of Tangle Teezer Limited said,

UKTI was instrumental in our success in South Africa and Germany.

We have found their advisers to have the in-market expertise, contacts, language and local knowledge that we lacked. They work with us as an extension of our own team, giving us an insight into our target markets that we simply wouldn’t get from an off-the-shelf report.

Working with UKTI also gives us credibility, and shows that we are serious.

Selling online to China

Always on the lookout for opportunities in new markets, Tangle Teezer was soon ready to tackle China.

The company was generating online sales through its own webshop and had secured distribution deals with some of the most prestigious department store groups in China and Hong Kong. However it was difficult to scale-up sales through a traditional retail route due to:

  • a long supply chain
  • fairly high duties
  • shipping costs

Not to be deterred, Tangle Teezer decided to find another way to maximise the potential of this huge market.

The company attended market briefings by UKTI and seminars run by the China- Britain Business Council (CBBC), UKTI’s official trade service delivery partner for mainland China. It learned that there were more than 260 million Chinese consumers shopping online every day and that demand for British fashion goods was high and growing.

Further desk-top research into online shopping sites that are popular with the young Chinese consumer showed that TMall, the Chinese equivalent of Amazon, had online sales which exceed those of Amazon and EBay combined.

In February 2014, Tangle Teezer attended a seminar in London organised by UKTI. The company met directly with Chinese representatives, including TMall, who were in the UK looking for local brands to feature. Things moved quickly after this.

Shaun said,

From the CBBC seminars and UKTI briefings that we attended and our own research we were certain that there was incredible scope for selling to the emerging Chinese consumer.

The question was how to tap into that potential, without making a huge investment. It was a lovely surprise to find the TMall representatives at the UKTI event. They assured us that they were committed to protecting the IP of brands they sell, and told us that their international brands department would guide us through the process of setting up a Tangle Teezer® Official Store on the website.

Four weeks after our chance meeting at the UKTI event, we were up and running.

Sales after 4 weeks

Having established an outlet for sales direct to the consumer, the next step for Tangle Teezer was to build brand awareness and online demand in China.

The company turned to Hot Pot Digital, a digital marketing agency with offices in London and Beijing that it had also met at the UKTI event, and who specialises in the China consumer market.

Within 4 weeks, it had sold more Tangle Teezers® than it had sold over the previous 12 weeks. By creating fan pages on 2 of the biggest Chinese social media platforms, weibo and weixin, the company had over 6,000 followers in China within one week.

According to current forecasts, sales are now set to triple in China year on year.

Shaun says,

The use and influence of social media on buying decisions surpasses anything we have seen in the UK.

If a young Chinese consumer wants information about a product or brand, they will use their smartphone. Thanks to the support we’ve had from UKTI, the CBBC and our other contacts we have approached China in exactly the right way. We’re making real headway and if things carry on like this, this is set to become our biggest international market by the end of 2015.

UKTI’s e-Exporting Programme

UK companies are well placed to take advantage of digital opportunities that will allow them to access international markets. By joining UKTI’s e-Exporting Programme, UK retailers and brands can reach consumers overseas through online channels.

Published 16 September 2014