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Export leaders

Chadwicks shares secrets of success after two decades of exporting

For packaging companies the prospect of moving into overseas sales is both enticing and daunting. The idea of selling into a completely new market which may have no knowledge of your company - as well as taking on potentially strong domestic competition - can put many firms off the idea.

But lids and shrink sleeve manufacturer Chadwicks is proof that the challenge isn’t as overwhelming as feared and that making the leap to take on foreign work can create a dramatic difference to turnover and company profile.

Chadwicks, based in Bury, Greater Manchester, makes pre-cut polyester, aluminium and laminate lids and shrink sleeves for the food, dairy and beverage sectors.

This year the company has been celebrating 20 years of successful exporting which has seen its turnover grow dramatically with around half coming from business overseas. The majority of the work is sourced from Australasia but other significant markets include Scandinavia, Israel and northern Europe.

Its success was reflected in a Queen’s Award for Export given to the firm in 1993 in recognition of its international trading.

John Chadwick
John Chadwick, MD of Chadwicks Lids

Company managing director John Chadwick (no relation) says: “It is incredible to think we have been exporting our product around the world for 20 years.

“We’re a great example of how careful planning and strategic risk-taking can result in building a solid range of results in foreign markets.”

John explains that the decision to move into overseas sales came as a result of capitalising on a gap in the Australian market.

“When we looked at the Australian market we discovered that lids weren’t being printed to the very edge because the technology wasn’t that advanced and they needed to avoid the inks burning when it was sealed,” he says.

“We had invested in new UV Flexo printing presses which meant we were able to offer complete printing and at lower origination costs too. We had the expertise in the technology and pin dot embossing which meant we could steal a march on our competitors.

“We knew that was a real selling point for us and became the basis of our pitch to potential clients. As obvious as it sounds that was one of the main factors that gave us a foundation to work from – we needed to show we could offer something new and different that would benefit the customer.”

But as well as trying to attract potential clients with the latest equipment, Chadwicks also made an effort to put its expertise to good use and emphasise the availability of its customer support – despite the distances involved.

Sales and marketing director Martin Hardman says: “We’ve always made it clear our technical support is on hand to every client, regardless of whether they are based 10 or 10,000 miles away.

“We’ve emphasised that we are about more than just delivering lids. We’re about offering innovative ways of improving efficiency and making the production process as smooth as possible.

“The New Zealand dairy producer Fonterra was looking to overcome a problem with thermoformed PS pots imploding after being hot-filled, leaving them looking crumpled on shop shelves. Strengthening the pot wall had been ruled out because it would involve a non-standard sheet so we trialled inverted recess diaphragms (Top Hat foils). They combined well with the pot and  meant the cream tub no longer crumpled during the hot-fill process, made it far more attractive to shoppers and helped trigger a considerable increase in sales.

“Once, when one of our customers was swapping from aluminium to polyester lids, we sent our technical manager out to oversee the change and make it clear how to keep the new system running smoothly. It’s that kind of direct contact that is essential to ensuring overseas customers don’t feel neglected or isolated.”

George Dedes, Divisional Sales Manager in Australia, deals with major food and dairy producers like Fonterra and Kraft from his office in Sydney.

He says: “I’d say my presence here helps to reassure clients that the company is really committed to their custom and in it for the long-term. So much so that I don’t think they necessarily consider Chadwicks as a British firm, just as a reliable lids manufacturer.”

Martin adds: “Where we’ve enjoyed success we’ve quickly tried to capitalise on it.

“Where the level of interest is not as high but still good, we’ll use sales agents to represent us which helps keep our name in the market place.”

But while the direct relationship with clients is important to successful exporting, so is the “back room” support and knowledge.

John Chadwick says: “We’ve had office staff trained specifically in areas to do with exporting such as FOB (Free on Board) and CIF (Cost Insurance and Freight) and the massive amount of documentation that goes with it is part of working internationally. Plus, everyone keeps abreast of the legal guidance and duties placed on exporters.

“That is unseen by customers but obviously they benefit from the smooth running of the business as a whole and we wouldn’t be able to maintain the network of contacts, production and shipping without it.”

And as the company reflects on the last 20 years, it remains keen to see if it can increase its exporting sales further over the next 20.

“We’re very proud of what we’ve achieved over two decades of exporting and are always looking at different regions to see where else we may be able to sell our lids,” says John Chadwick.

“The economic climate might be difficult at the moment, but it wasn’t particularly rosy in 1989 when we started and we still managed to make it work. We’ve never regretted making the decision to really commit to exports and I’d say to directors in a similar position that if you’ve got faith in your product and your business, just go for it.”

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