Charlie Bears a hit in China

Charlie Bears, a Cornwall teddy bear manufacturer, has increased its international sales by 44% in the last 12 months.

Founded in 2005 by Launceston-based husband and wife team Charlotte and William Morris, Charlie Bears specialises in creating collectable handmade teddy bears. The business currently supplies independent retailers across the UK as well selling online and through the shopping channel QVC.

The business started exporting in 2007 and its products are now sold in more than 37 countries, including Australia, Germany, and the US. Sales through exporting currently account for 20% of the company’s £8.5million turnover.

Trade advisers from the Department for International Trade (DIT) first supported Charlie Bears in 2012 when the firm wanted to explore the Japanese market. Following increased success in Japan, the business is now looking to other markets in Asia including China and India, with aims to export 50,000 of teddy bears to Asia in the next two years. 

Will Morris, co-founder of Charlie Bears, said: “We initially found great success in English-speaking countries. Within a year of establishing the company, we were receiving orders from Australia. The US has been a key growth market for us too, we even have a distribution centre in Florida and employ 14 staff there.

“We started working with DIT in 2012 when we wanted to export to Japan. Our trade advisers were with us every step of the way and commissioned an extensive market research report to help us discover the opportunities that we could tap into.

“Despite our success, exporting overseas isn’t always straightforward. One of our main concerns was finding the right distributors but DIT was able to point us in the direction of a lot of potential contacts. My advice to any company that’s thinking about exporting for the first time is to get out there and give it your best shot – you’ll never know what benefits it can bring to your business if you don’t try. If we can, so can many other local firms.”

Paul Shand, DIT’s Head of South West England, said:

“Charlie Bears was already an experienced exporter when they first got in touch with us, but with our support, they were able to build on this success even further. It’s encouraging to see the business target large markets like China and India for the first time. 

“Concerns about finding distribution agents, the cultural differences in new markets and language barriers can sometimes deter companies based here in the South West from venturing into new markets. But we can help overcome these and many more barriers besides.

“DIT has access to translators around the world, and a team of International Trade Advisers right across the region who provide specialist support and guidance to help businesses navigate the exporting process. Furthermore, we’re aware of hundreds of different exporting opportunities that could be right for businesses across the region.”

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