Case study

UKTI helps notebook stationery manufacturer increase online sales

UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) has been providing support to The Stamford Notebook Company as it pursues more business from exports.

A purple notebook from The Stamford Notebook Company
A notebook from The Stamford Notebook Company (copyright: The Stamford Notebook Company)

Spiegl Press is a family run printing business based in Stamford, South Lincolnshire. The company was started in the late 1950s by Peter Spiegl and is now run by his son, Hugo.

The company custom makes:

  • high-end occasion and personal stationery
  • commercial print, such as brochures and leaflets
  • short run book production
  • specialist services such as thread sewing and case binding

In 2013, Spiegl Press developed The Stamford Notebook Company with a family friend, Paul Sloggett. The new brand offers a range of classic notebooks and journals, hand-bound using the highest quality materials.

Hugo Spiegl says:

We are more interested in instilling a traditional, artisan feel in our product than bulk, mechanised production. We use long lasting, quality machinery that dates back to the 1950s and 1960s, producing 300 items a day. All our cloth and leather covers are made by hand. The paper we use is top quality, made by one of only 2 mills in Britain. With this approach, we produce a beautiful, elegant product.

Selling overseas

Looking to capitalise on the global demand for quality British goods, The Stamford Notebook Company created a website which immediately attracted international traffic and the occasional order.

In January 2013, the company displayed its notebooks at Top Drawer, London’s largest design-led gift trade event. As a result, a retailer from Canada placed an order. Hugo was then persuaded by the organisers of the Spring Fair at the NEC to exhibit there with UKTI in February 2013.

During the Spring Fair, Hugo attended presentations organised by UKTI, met its in-country teams and went to an event where he had discussions with several buyers. A buyer from Japan placed a £4,000 order.

Hugo says

Being at an international event with UKTI tells people that we are serious. Over the 5 days of the Spring Fair, we developed a close relationship with UKTI, listening to speakers, meeting their representatives from other markets and attending the Meet the Buyer event.

We came away with a real understanding of the extent of support that UKTI offers to help British business grow their exports. Our first order from Japan was for a significant sum, which is a good indicator that there’s a demand there for our products.

Passport to Export Programme

What The Stamford Notebook Company learned from UKTI during the Spring Fair, and the encouraging order from Japan secured there, made the company think more seriously about how to win new overseas business.

In June 2014, Hugo joined Passport to Export, the UKTI programme that helps businesses to prepare for international markets. This gave him a detailed overview of the issues involved in exporting.

“Passport to Export was extremely intensive, and gave us all the information we could possibly need to get going in export marketing,” says Hugo. “We got sensible advice about topics like tackling different markets and how to carry out thorough research. It’s not rocket science, but it was useful to have it all set out so clearly and turned my mind to some things that I hadn’t considered.”

Online sales

The Stamford Notebook Company is focussing initially on North America, where the Canadian retailer it met at Top Drawer has recently submitted a new order for the high-value, leather-covered notebooks, and Japan. The UKTI team in Tokyo is on hand to offer in-market support with introductions, securing press coverage and understanding the local business culture.

Meanwhile, The Stamford Notebook Company has recently commissioned an Export Communications Review (ECR) of its website to find out how to improve its international appeal.

“We’d like to develop our online direct sales, which are obviously more profitable for us than going through local retailers,” says Hugo.

He adds “UKTI’s ECR is making sure we make the most of our website. I wish we’d used it 12 months ago! We’ll take on board the advice UKTI has given us, and we also intend to enrol in UKTI’s e-Exporting Programme when it becomes available.

Hugo says he was sceptical at first on how effective government support would be.

However he adds “UKTI’s performance has proven to be very mature, the quality of the information they provide is extremely good and their response times when I have any queries has been excellent. Without UKTI on board, I don’t see how a small manufacturing business like ours would manage to export successfully.”

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 8 September 2014