Pastures new

Digital Map of the World

Significant opportunities remain for retailers looking to expand overseas.

Despite M&S, B&Q, Bunnings and Tesco having to recently rein in their international operations, overseas roll out can be effective and profitable, if handled in the right way.

Research, research, research
It seems obvious, but doing your homework really does make a difference, and understanding the current economic and retail climates as well as gauging the potential demand from customers is key. Each country has its own distinct shopping culture and each of these questions need to be answered:

  • How developed is the high street?
  • Is there strong growth online?
  • Is there a desire for something new and different?
  • What competitors are in play?

Could you utilise the desire for innovative retail and technology in Japan and South Korea or are you more suited to the demand for British quality in China and the Middle East?  Europe and the Americas have opportunities for bricks and mortar growth whilst the online expertise honed in the innovative UK market mean retailers are often well placed to engage new markets via the web.

Be confident in your brand
Gaining the trust of customers is essential in any retail environment.  Be clear on who you are and what you stand for.  There are examples of retailers expanding under a new facade. This can work but is difficult to get right.

British brands expanding overseas have been able to emphasise their heritage and quality.  Traditional retailers such and Burberry and Fortnum & Mason have been clear on their message but newer brands such as Wiggle and Graze have kept their values at the forefront of growth.

Don’t build a house on the sand
Digital marketing can be a cost-effective method to get your message across clearly. have invested in their digital brand to help grow their presence in France, Germany, Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The supply chain aspect can be overlooked but is a key consideration.  This involves scoping the route to market for your products as well as the infrastructure and working practices in your chosen market.  Adopting an existing logistics operation can be an initial stepping stone.

Partnerships can spread the load
Working with a partner can provide support in complex and unstable markets as well as growing online reach.

China and India were initially seen as potential treasure troves however regulatory hurdles and seemingly endless red tape have put to rest many attempts.  Joint ventures with local retailers or brands can help build knowledge quickly and support with operational infrastructure.

When it comes to online, increasingly retailers are investing in dedicated international sites as well as partnering with online platforms and marketplaces such as Amazon, Alibaba and eBay.  These partners can give clear insight into new markets. The data and analytical support they provide can help to prove if expansion will be successful.

Chris Hill