Around the World in 80 Trades: Alex Begg & Co.
What does your company do?
Alex Begg & Co handcrafts exquisite scarves, wraps and throws from the finest cashmere, silk and lambswool yarns. Made in Ayr since 1866, Alex Begg is renowned in the industry for its quality and technical expertise meaning that it has always been a popular choice for the most famous couture brands to produce their accessories and interior collections.
Autumn 2013 marked the beginning of a new chapter for Alex Begg & Co when a new own-brand collection called Begg & Co was launched. This sells to prestigious stores worldwide in Japan, Korea, USA, Canada and Europe. Examples include Bergdorf Goodman, Barneys, Fortnum & Mason, Printemps Paris and Matches Fashion. As part of the rebrand we launched a transactional website in August 2013.
How long has the company been exporting?
We have been well established in export markets for decades and are well known in the industry for quality products. We rebranded our own range 5 years ago working with London based branding agency Winkreative and the decision to launch a retail site was part of our brand strategy.
What do you currently export, and where to?
We sell luxury cashmere scarves, wraps, throws and cushions to over 25 countries worldwide.
What's the most challenging part of exporting?
Distribution can prove challenging; ensuring shipments have the correct documentation to clear customs. Also, understanding customers' expectations around service and delivery.
For wholesale, finding reliable agents, particularly in emerging markets where it is vital to ensure they have an understanding of how the brand should be promoted and where it should be sold.
Retaining brand identity whilst taking into account differences in taste between markets is also challenging.
Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and was it helpful?
Scottish Enterprise grants, missions, customer visits and market contacts.
What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?
Research the country and market you are targeting thoroughly. We have found it useful to carry out consumer and press market research group workshops to allow us to learn more about the luxury accessories market in that country.
It is also good to speak to non-competing brands supplying your sector of the market and discuss what works for them.
Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in 5 years time?
We are delighted with the growth in Asian markets, especially China which has huge potential. This has partially been a result of appointing an agent who has an understanding of our brand and how and where to sell it in the marketplace, and developing some high profile wholesale accounts. It has also been a result of the growth in the Chinese e-commerce market and the number of citizens who are travelling and seeing our brand worldwide.
Alex Begg & Co. have been shortlisted in the E-Commerce Exporter of the Year category at the HSBC Scottish Export Awards 2017 in association with Scottish Enterprise. Join us on 22 March to celebrate international trade across Scotland.
Published: 14 March 2017