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19 June, 2018 - 13:02 By Tony Quested

Trade success more than skin deep as local firms bridge the Gulf

Opportunities for East of England businesses to export goods to the Middle East were highlighted at an export event in Cambridge staged by the Department of International Trade (DIT).

Local companies doing well in the Gulf include AMRA Skincare from Stevenage, whose CEO and founder Sue Jessop was at the event at The Trinity Centre on Cambridge Science Park.

Jessop started from her kitchen, developing a high end and exclusive range of beauty products using precious materials (gold, precious stones etc.). She has managed to crack the Gulf market and have product stocked in many of the top hotels and spas. 

Other local businesses were urged to follow her example, as part of DIT’s Exporting is GREAT campaign; the ‘Gateway to the Gulf’ event encouraged businesses to consider trade in the Gulf markets, which include the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

In 2016, the UK exported £22.7 billion of goods to the Gulf, with the UAE being the UK’s fourth biggest export market outside Europe.

The value of East of England exports of goods to the Middle East & North Africa (MENA)in 2017 totalled £1.61 billion, an 11.5 per cent increase on 2016 (£1.44bn). 

Looking at yearly trade stats from 1996, this is the highest annual value of good exports to MENA from the East of England.

Leading market segments for local and UK exporters were transport equipment; medicinal & pharmaceutical products; general industrial machinery; scientific instruments; miscellaneous manufactured goods; specialised machinery; telecomms and related equipment; road vehicles (including air cushion vehicles); essential oils & perfume materials; office machines; chemical materials & products; livestock;coffee, tea, cocoa and spices; metal products; furniture; metalliferous ores & metal scrap; dyeing, tanning & colouring materials; miscellaneous edible products & preparations. 

Through the interactive Cambridge workshop, spokespeople from DIT offered firms practical advice on making their brand appeal to buyers in the Gulf, developing their export strategy and avoiding common mistakes when doing business in the region.

Alan Pain, DIT’s head of the East of England, said: “There is huge demand for British goods overseas, and the East of England is no exception. Last year, exports from the region totalled an impressive £28.9 billion, an increase of eight per cent on 2016.

“Harnessing the power of international trade can be a real turning point for SMEs, particularly as those who export are more profitable, successful and resilient than those who do not. Finding the right market for your brand is the first step.”

• Pictured (left to right): Thinley Topden, DIT; Paul Walker, Christie International; Sue Jessop, CEO and founder of AMRA Skincare; Alistair Long, DIT.

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