“Quality and excellence have always been hallmarks of the Charlotte Rhys brand, and we had established a solid reputation in the local market for manufacturing high quality goods,“explains Shaun McDermott, who co-founded the company with Janet Rhys.
“But when you start competing internationally on a global playing field, you need to make a step-change. Customers are more discerning, particularly in the luxury goods sector. For us, getting export ready was largely about getting the quality spot-on.”
Rhys explains that while there were no issues with the quality of the luxury guest amenities that the business supplies to the upper-end hospitality market, the packaging of the range needed some attention.
“Understandably, the luxury goods market is as much about how a product is packaged as it is about what’s inside,” says Rhys, “We needed to raise the bar internally and get suppliers on board to meet our very high packaging standards.”
The company had to work closely with local packaging suppliers to achieve the quality standards it was looking for.
“Our local packaging suppliers have significant competition from China, which is able to produce extremely high-quality packaging materials at affordable prices. Fortunately, our work has paid off in terms of getting packaging suppliers to understand our benchmark for quality,” says Rhys.
Supply to the hospitality industry now comprises 60% of the company’s business, and the international export market will provide its next wave of growth. Since entering the global market three years ago, Rhys and McDermott have learnt a number of useful lessons. Here’s what they can share with other entrepreneurs who are looking to expand their businesses into other countries.
- Get to grips with foreign trade and finance. Payment methods can be complicated and onerous. Make contact with the local Chamber of Commerce in your target countries to help you understand the ins and outs of arranging payments. We had to learn this all ourselves — a time-consuming and frustrating process.
- Know your market and your customer inside out. This sounds obvious but it’s important that you don’t assume that your overseas customer is the same as your local customer. Research your target markets. Do your homework. Distributors can help you understand the market better. We asked ours about market analysis, price, competitors, service levels and customer expectations. Above all, know what niche you will fill and where you want to be positioned.
- Doing business internationally is all about finding the right people to work with. We sought out people who mirrored our commitment to Charlotte Rhys and who bought into the values and ethos of our brand.
- A soft launch makes your landing in a new territory easier. This approach has helped us gain vital knowledge and practical understanding of each country, so that we could then slowly expand our business, learn, adapt and make necessary changes. We evolve into new foreign markets once we completely understand them.
- Company: Charlotte Rhys
- Players: Shaun McDermott and Janet Rhys
- Est: 1999
- X-factor: Locally manufactured luxury body and lifestyle products competing with top international luxury brands.
- Connect: www.charlotterhys.com • +27 (0)21 702 1338
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