When your brand name doesn’t work internationally, what do you do? Tipperary Crystal came up with a great solution.
Pack up your troubles…
What do you do when you have successfully built your brand and your business model – and you have reached saturation in your home market? The text book options suggest that you consider developing new products or new markets. ame does
Tipperary Crystal is an established Irish brand of quality hand-cut lead crystal. In 2011 the brand was acquired by Allied Imports, a second-generation Irish family business. The Scanlan family have been in the import, distribution and export business for 45 years starting off in toys and tourism products. Founded by James, the business now employs 48 people.
At the time of the acquisition, sales in Tipperary Crystal were made up of 95% lead-crystal and ancillary products at 5%. Now 7 years later, that ratio has completely flipped. Only 5% of sales are made up of crystal and the rest is from collections of jewellery, cutlery, tableware, candles and other ‘living’ products. The brand values that made the highly trusted Tipperary Crystal such a success, included ‘quality, innovation, gift appeal and family’. So for consistency and brand integrity, the new owners applied these values to the new collections also.
This strategy combined with the new TC Handbag Collection (designed by Creative Designer Karen Scanlan) has ensured a growth of 25% per annum over the last few years. I’m not surprised by this as the family have a strong culture of managing change and taking risks. “We have been in the business for a long time and have learned from our successes and mistakes over the years. We were highly excited by the potential of the Tipperary Crystal brand and were keen to take it to the next level” said managing director Robbie Scanlan.
The collections have a strong gifting’ theme and their customer base is mainly female. That encouraged them to become the lead sponsor of the Rose of Tralee International Festival and to run a very successful Christmas ad campaign, centred around family gifting.
Challenges with Export
Having achieved such phenomenal growth in recent years, the family are keen to continue this trajectory. But the indigenous Irish market is limited by its size. Even though they have collections that allow them to sell through gift shops, jewellers, boutiques and pharmacies there is still a cap on the growth potential in Ireland. Export has to be an obvious next step.
However when attempts were made to sell Tipperary Crystal products internationally, there was a surprising resistance which was a revelation! Because of the past international success of Waterford Crystal, the word ‘crystal’ was synonymous with Waterford. This is similar to how Hoover has become synonymous with vacuum cleaners and Xerox with photocopiers. So bizarrely for Tipperary Crystal, although the new product collections were potential winners, the problem was in the name.
The company had many previous international successes over the years. So rather than give up before they started, they took time to stand back and think outside the box.
- Select a market and research it. There are a number of ways to research a new market, such as commissioning a market research study… running focus groups etc. Tipperary Crystal’s way was to speak to some potential customers to discover the brand perception feedback mentioned earlier. They realised that simply replicating the Irish business model wouldn’t work. That did not stop them. Knowing their strengths and past successes were in ‘gifting’ products, the family literally invented a name that they felt would resonate with an international gifting audience. Built on the Tipperary Crystal brand values (the same patented colours, fonts, packaging and styling), ‘Bailey & Brooke’ as a new brand was born.
- Tailor your product range. This would normally follow on from the market research that you do. For Bailey & Brooke, they simply identified the best sellers in each category of the home market collection over the last few years. That became the core launch collection. Undoubtedly when they build expertise in their new markets, differences will emerge in time. The family are commercial enough to be on top of that and will adapt accordingly. Not everyone has such a track record of best sellers, so getting feedback in advance is vital.
- Decide your potential market and channels for distribution. This company had three choices which included direct wholesale distribution, licensing to international distributors and on-line retail sales. With the support of Enterprise Ireland, several new markets have been opened for licensing the brand and collections, such as Panama, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, USA, Italy and Romania. An on-line retail store was also developed. But for the UK market in particular, the family decided to service that directly themselves. The reasons are due to proximity, language and taste-levels. Brexit be damned!
- Test, test and test again. With any new launch in a new territory, testing and fine-tuning is essential. That starts with a mindset that resists making assumptions and that managing change will be essential for success.
I myself have been on the periphery of the homewares industry for 40 years. I have to say that in that time it always struck me as a sleepy sector with little real innovation. It’s really encouraging to see a number of Irish brands like Tipperary Crystal and others breaking that mould.
With Bailey & Brooke, the Scanlan family have taken a different route. They didn’t let the resistance to the name stop their export ambitions. With determination and resilience, they have built Bailey & Brooke, a new international brand that has real growth potential for years to come. I think they are poised for more stardom, so watch this space.
On the flip side to today’s export case-study, next week I’ll be exploring how an iconic American import brand like Harley Davidson has grown in Ireland.
Alan O’Neill is the Change Agent. Go to www.alanoneill.biz if you’d like help with your business
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