In the wake of the decision to leave the European Union, many businesses within Irish consumer products saw this not as a challenge but as a platform for a myriad of opportunities and consequently started looking at how to maintain ties to the UK as well as open up new channels for growth.
According to Irish government agency Enterprise Ireland, in 2017 Irish consumer exports to the UK are worth nearly €500m, with value increasing by 12% in the previous 12 months alone – demonstrating Irish consumer products are becoming increasingly popular with UK buyers.
Innovation is at the heart of this strong trade link between the two isles, with the UK remaining Ireland’s number one trading partner. Therefore, it’s vital for small businesses within the retail sector to stay ahead of the curve and push themselves to innovate and scale.Here we list five reasons why Irish consumer exports to the UK are on the up and hopefully will continue to soar.
Irish companies are continually innovating and as such, no matter their sector, hold an advantage when doing business whether at home or overseas; in turn driving success.
Irish SMEs are number one for innovation in Europe and one such Irish company which has led the way is Soopa which offers a range of super nutritious plant-based dog treats and supplements and is now available in over 500 UK stores. In addition, Soopa has strengthened its UK presence, growing 211.5% in under one year; supplying innovative and nutritious products for dogs to meet strong consumer demand.
Nowadays, one in three customers say that they want a product unique from the rest and many start-ups, including, Soopa, have capitalised on this with ease and success. Personalising products and differentiating has given way to these strengthened retail ties between Ireland and the UK; paving the way for an even more successful relationship.
Adaptation to shifting markets
Brexit is somewhat concerning for the retail sector, but many of the Irish companies we work with have been established for a long time continue to be positive about the future working relationship with UK customers.
Enterprise Ireland’s consumer products portfolio spans fashion, furniture, giftware, health and beauty as well as other categories that are doing particularly well, such as toys. We have over 200 Irish companies in the consumer product space and so regularly advise on what they need to do to flourish.
We’ve found small businesses and start-ups have the ability to respond more quickly to fluctuating climates, far more so than larger-scale companies. The latter are usually constrained by hefty approval processes and multiple departments at the development stage, allowing smaller brands to capitalise on being nimble and innovative to get ahead.
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 and with UK online retail sales exceeding £130bn in 2016, retailers are finding themselves offering an effective multi-channel experience for consumers – blurring the line between ‘online and offline’.
In a crowded market such as Britain, knowing your market is essential to targeting buyers effectively and while there are similarities between Irish and British consumers, in a business context there are vital differences in market entry.
This includes new and developing routes to market which must be better understood. We are continuing to invest in Irish companies, providing them with the on-the-ground knowledge to help drive international success, and further strengthen their UK business relationships; ensuring this market knowledge is kept up-to-date, in turn strengthening trade relations.
A Positive Outlook
A positive outlook in light of market changes has helped Irish companies to not only increase their sales but to also build new relationships. This in turn has enhanced learning from innovative peers as well as bolstering collaboration with larger organisations that have a track record of growth within the SME community.
Despite there being a constantly changing landscape, it’s an exciting time for companies within Irish consumer products. By enhancing innovation, adapting to new markets, strengthening digital capabilities and harnessing market understanding, their growth in the UK and further afield will continue to strengthen and appeal to a buyer audience. With new developments always on the horizon, now is the time to innovate and adapt accordingly.
Allyson Stephen is the market advisor for Enterprise Ireland, the government agency in Ireland responsible for supporting Irish businesses in the manufacturing and internationally traded service sectors