Next sent shockwaves through the retail sector in the UK this morning when it announced its figures for the Christmas period. The retail giant, which usually reports healthy Christmas sales, saw its store sales fall by 3.5% in the 54 days leading up to Christmas Eve.
What is significant is that Next is often seen as a bellwether company for the rest of the sector. They have warned of a difficult year to come and this has not only sent their share price, but also that of M&S and Primark tumbling.
These companies will weather the storm, they will still turn a profit, even if that means ‘restructuring.’ Many other companies won't fare so well.
So how can you prevent the same from happening to your company?
Well, one way would be to not limit yourself solely to the UK market.
As the UK approaches Brexit, in whatever form that may take, we should look to increase our overseas sales, and right now, with the pound being a 'little on the low side,' we are a very attractive 'market place' to buy from because we're a bit less expensive.
Sounds obvious I know, but often terms like 'Export' and 'International Trade' present a barrier to many businesses. These words conjure up images of huge containers loaded onto ships, sailing across the oceans – and let's be honest, for some larger companies that is exactly what it will mean.
For the vast majority of companies in the South West of England however it will be as simple as starting to sell a few items online to customers, who happen to be in a different country.
In my role as an International Trade Digital Marketing Adviser I work with a team that helps a great number of SMEs and micro businesses across the South West region to do just that. Like all companies they have products or services to sell, but they have taken a few very simple steps to help them reach new customers in places as diverse as India, France, the USA and China.
And these companies come to us from all sectors. From engineering to fashion, technology to food. The global appetite for UK goods and services is very high, and the digital marketplace is buoyant and booming.
In 2016 the UK's exports outstripped the global average for the first time since 2006. We are getting better and better at selling overseas and the time for you to reach out to new customers is now.
About the author
Nigel Barker joined Business West as a Digital Marketing Adviser in December 2016 from one of the South West's leading communications agencies. He currently sits on the CIPR South West committee and has worked on several award winning integrated and digital campaigns.
Nigel describes himself as a 'horizon scanner' and is constantly looking for new technologies and how they can be used to have a positive impact for businesses and society as a whole.
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