Goods worth €500m last year as UK set to remain most important market
Irish consumer exports to the UK rose by 12 per cent in the past year and are now worth nearly €500m, according to Enterprise Ireland. That’s against a UK domestic backdrop of three consecutive months of shrinking retail sales and continuing Brexit uncertainty.
But despite that the UK is still the single most important market for Ireland’s most innovative retailers, according to Allyson Stephen, Market Advisor at Enterprise Ireland.
Buyers from some of the best-known names on the UK’s High Streets – John Lewis, Selfridges, Conran – will be at the RDS in Dublin next month for the showcase trade fair. London-based Allyson, who has been with EI for 15 years, told the Irish World: “We have a number of UK buyers, 65 in all, coming to our main trade fair in January which is called Showcase, (21-24 January at the RDS).
“We get buyers from all over the world but from the UK we have John Lewis, we’ve got four buyers from their homewares department, Selfridges are coming, we’ve a large number of buyer s i n the independent sector, the on-line platform Not On the High Street, the Conran Group, the British Museum, Historic Royal Palaces and V&A, so those kind of companies will be attending, some of them for the first time.”
“The UK will continue to be the largest market for online retail in Europe and, as it stands remains the fifth largest economy in the world by GDP.
“Technology has played a huge role in spurring e-commerce, with UK online retail sales exceeding £130 billion in 2016, retailers are finding themselves offering an effective multi-channel experience for consumers – blurring the line between ‘online and offline’.
“It is important to emphasise the companies we are dealing with are very good in terms of innovation, not just in terms of the products they sell but also their route to market. They are selling much more on-line, either directly or through market places such as E-Bay, Amazon and the like. They are doing things differently in terms of their selling through different channels.
“Brexit is concerning but the companies we work with, many of them have been established for a long time and have been through the tough times before and come through them.
“Our Irish Consumer products portfolio comprises Irish companies in fashion, furniture, giftware, toys, health and beauty and there are particular categories within that doing particularly well, toy companies, for example. Some of the toy companies are growing at something like 90-odd per cent. We’ve got over 200 Irish companies in the consumer product space so that covers textile, furniture, soft furnishing, health and beauty, giftware, babies, toys, jewellery, basically anything non-food.
“In total Irish consumer products to the UK were worth nearly €500m last year, that’s a growth of 12 per cent. Within that there’s certain sectors, toys are doing well, pet products are doing particularly well.
“There’s a company called Soopa, they’ve seen growth of over 200 per cent in UK in less than 12 months, that’s 211.5 per cent growth in less than 12 months and is now available in over 500 UK stores. They manufacture organic pet treats for dogs and cats.
“There’s a real trend within the UK that pets are part of the family and people are prepared to spend on this. The likes of these companies with higher value added products are doing particularly well.
“There’s a company called Irish Breeze who have a product called Water Wipes sold in the likes of Boots, a baby wipe but with higher added value product so it’s not your bog standard baby wipe.
“There are certain products like pet products and baby products that are a really personal product for which people want to spend more, it’s for their child or pet, I’m going to look after my pet or my child, I’m going to spend a bit more on them.
“Of course, there are lots of ‘me too’ products out there but the ones we work with and advise are the ones with something innovative and higher added value.
“That helps with the sterling fluctuations, the companies that have done well out of that, in terms of currency, they have prepared for it so they’re hedging in terms of currency fluctuations but they’re also offering higher priced products, basically. They have got that added value element to it.