Press release

Santa delivers early for UK exporters

Sales of British fresh Christmas trees abroad are up by over 100% and British toy producers sales soar by over £25 million.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


UK businesses are jingling all the way after helping to spread Christmas cheer across the world.

Christmas trees grown in the UK are sold nearly exclusively in the UK, but growers are increasingly bucking the trend. Taking on their European rivals, during the festive season last year they saw an increase in sales overseas of 111% for October to December 2013 compared to the previous year.

Meanwhile children across the world continue to write to Father Christmas asking for British toys, with UK toy manufacturers reporting a 25% increase in exports for October to December 2013. This is an increase of over £25 million compared to the same period in 2012 and, with a 17% increase in unit toy sales for 2014 so far, is set to grow further still this year.

In 2013 to 2014 UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), the government department that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy, assisted businesses generate £49.1 billion to the UK economy in additional overseas sales, which created or safeguarded 220,440 jobs.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said:

From toys to trees to all the Christmas trimmings, the UK has proved time and again that we produce the items of choice for people celebrating the festive season across the globe.

It’s particularly good to see British firms branching out into new markets, selling Christmas trees in Russia, chestnuts to Spain and toys to Angola.

Looking ahead to 2015, we want to help British businesses not just sell abroad, but thrive there. UK Trade and Investment stands ready to help and this year supported almost 48,000 companies do just that. Any company wanting to know more should get in touch.

According to retail sales data from market researchers The NPD Group, revenue from sales of toys since January has increased by 6% compared to the same time period last year - the best sales result since 2010.

British company WOW Toys has seen a 26% rise in their exporting activity since January this year and are helping to fuel a boom in the UK industry. WOW, who specialise in innovative and high quality toys for toddlers, now export to as diverse places as Japan, Angola, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and are expanding further still with the help of UKTI.

Nadim Ednan-Laperouse, company founder, said:

Over 48% of our business is exporting overseas and this year has been a really good year. Our products are niche, unique and high quality, which I think creates a particular selling-point for us to sell in more unusual as well as well-established countries.

UKTI have been invaluable in helping us achieve our export goals and this year we exhibited at a trade show in Mumbai, India, with their help, to break into this new market.

Jadecliff Ltd, based in Newbury, is a Christmas tree company that is benefitting from the increased demand for British Christmas trees abroad. The company, which this year provided the tree for outside No. 11 Downing Street, is exporting overseas for the first time – with Holland as their first target market.

Sadie Lynes, Managing Director of the company, said:

We have grown the business a lot in the UK, so exporting really was the logical next step for us in order to further expand the business. We visited Holland last year to make preparations and I have over 25 years’ experience in the business which has really helped.

I would definitely recommend exporting to companies looking to expand as we are starting to see the benefits already and are planning to try new markets in Europe next year.

It has also been a stellar year for British chestnut suppliers, who saw exports jump by a massive 352% for the festive season in 2013 compared to the same period in 2012. This was mainly due to soaring demand in Spain, Ireland and the Netherlands. And, as temperatures dropped during the winter months, there was a rise in demand for UK-made coats by 43%, particularly in Germany.

The top 5 biggest selling UK exports over the last Christmas period were whiskies, beer, chocolate, toys and cheese. Sales figures for last year were £1.2 billion for whiskies, £161 million for beer, £160 million for chocolate, £128 million for toys and £124 million for cheese.

In this year’s Autumn Statement, the government announced £20 million to support first-time exporters, and UKTI’s expert international trade advisors can help new exporters with practical advice and support to seek out new international customers.

Notes to Editors:

1.The case study mentioned is available for interview upon request. Other case studies are available also.

2.Infographics demonstrating the top 5 exports by percentage increases are available, as well as images of Jadecliff and WOW Toys.

3.Full breakdown of the top 10 exports by percentage increase in 2013. The number denotes the items ranking by percentage increase.

Christmas item Value of exports October to December (Q4) 2012 (£) Value of exports October to December (Q4) 2013 (£) % increase Largest export market
Chestnuts 39,305 177,611 352% Spain
Fresh Christmas trees 64,601 136,314 111% Rep of Ireland (Russia second)
Coats 19,709,784 28,236,592 43% Germany
Toys 102,939,334 128,234,566 25% Rep of Ireland
Chicken 5,045,216 6,234,270 24% Netherlands
Christmas articles (excl. candles and electric lighting sets, natural Christmas trees and Christmas tree stands) 8,720,185 10,557,859 21% Rep of Ireland
Cider/perry 9,763,703 11,734,850 20% Rep of Ireland
Cheese and curd 106,633,519 124,862,597 17% Rep of Ireland
Scarves 6,453,912 7,476,371 16% France
Beer 141,507,619 161,069,905 14% United States

Source: BIS Analysis based on HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics database

4.Full breakdown of the top 10 exports by sales figures in quarter 4 of 2013.

Christmas item Quarter 4 (October to December 2012) Largest export market
Whiskies 1,225,391,218 United States
Beer 161,069,905 United States
Chocolate 159,706,429 Rep of Ireland
Toys 128,234,566 Rep of Ireland
Cheese and curd 124,862,597 Rep of Ireland
Wine 114,591,810 Hong Kong
Gin and Geneva 97,282,370 United States
Video game consoles and machines 85,180,623 Rep of Ireland
Lamb (fresh/frozen) 53,209,887 France
Liqueurs and cordials 48,025,756 United States

Source: BIS Analysis based on HMRC Overseas Trade Statistics database

5.The UKTI first-time exporters package includes:

  • a new team of International Trade Advisors, specialising in first-time exporting advice
  • a new incubator service
  • insight visits to local and accessible markets
  • new grant funding
  • digtal exporting support
  • International Trade Fair support

6.UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) is the government department that helps UK-based companies succeed in the global economy. We also help overseas companies bring their high quality investment to the UK’s economy – acknowledged as Europe’s best place from which to succeed in global business. UKTI offers expertise and contacts through its extensive network of specialists in the UK, and in British embassies and other diplomatic offices around the world. We provide companies with the tools they require to be competitive on the world stage.

Published 23 December 2014