Supporting Overseas Trade
Whilst we are proud of our British roots, a key element of our success lies with building a presence in other countries and markets. In the light of the Coronavirus pandemic our strong international partnerships have been more important than ever and, over the past few months, we’ve worked hard to support our export partners closely during this global crisis.
Developing an international presence seemed a natural step to us right from the start. Having spent a few years establishing a firm foothold with our LimbO range in the UK, we turned our attention to a wider audience. Medical and scientific work has often been internationally collaborative and developed cross-border, so it seemed a sensible step to consider an overseas presence for LimbO. The LimbO waterproof protector lends itself well to an international audience – broken bones and wound care are issues no matter your nationality and LimbO is a simple concept to understand, requiring minimal translation!
In the early days of promoting the LimbO at medical conferences in the UK, delegates from other countries were inspired by our story and drawn to our innovative British made solution to keep plaster casts dry. Our Dutch distributor, Able 2, had a chance meeting with the founders of Thesis, Trevor Nightingale and Ted Palmer, at a conference in the Midlands where the main focus was supporting UK nursing teams. Since then, Able2 have become one of Thesis’ longest and most successful partnerships. Distributors for some countries have also grown out of satisfied patient experiences of the LimbO. For example, our USA office was begun by Mike and Cheryl Koscak after Mike used the LimbO for his leg wound and was so impressed, he and his wife wanted to work with us to help establish us in North America. Cheryl and Mike have been the backbone of our USA fulfilment ever since.
Over the last eight years, we have worked hard to build relationships across the globe in person - supporting local teams at events, exhibitions and international conferences, hosting training events both abroad and at our base in West Sussex and undertaking product demonstrations at home and overseas with an average of 10 export trips per year. We have also adapted our packaging and marketing materials to ensure they are relevant for each territory.
Time spent researching and securing significant EU/DTI funding has enabled us to maximise our reach and support, and take part in trade missions, most recently to Japan in 2019. This approach has resulted in close relationships with a wide range of overseas distributors, which, in turn, have translated into significant export growth.
The other products we have developed are also relevant to international markets and, gradually, we are building up an international profile. For example, Neocape, our stylish, innovative barbering gown, has won fans around the world and benefits from the popularity and power of social media within an industry that thrives on image and looking good (and showing off cutting edge design).
To maintain our global position, we have taken time to secure “word trademarks”, to protect our and our distributors’ marketing efforts. For example, this year we have registered “LIMBO” in the EU, Japan and the USA, and “NEOCAPE” in the USA, Australia, the EU and Russia.
This year’s global pandemic has served to cement our international relationships. In contrast to Brexit, which felt bewildering, isolating and full of conflict, Covid-19 has put us all in the same boat. Distributors in countries impacted by the pandemic ahead of the UK, such as Italy and Spain, helped us to plan for the likely effects on our business, as demand for LimbOs reduced and marketing / networking activities with hospitals and clinicians became impossible. Our Italian distributor turned to Amazon Italy to distribute LimbOs throughout lockdown, giving us the confidence to maximise our Amazon UK operation more effectively as the Coronavirus crisis deepened here.
Thankfully, strong communications between us and our distributors put us in a good position internationally as a ‘new normal’ has emerged. It was reassuring when countries suffering severe effects of the pandemic, including the Netherlands, South Korea, Italy, Japan and the USA, began to order again - in high volumes and earlier than we had expected.
Whilst our UK direct sales and prescription business have steadily recovered month on month since lockdown, it has been encouraging to see that whilst export sales fell further than domestic sales at the height of the pandemic, they have bounced back higher, even beating our 2019 Q3 sales.
We have been proactive with new partners and ideas despite the current challenges and restrictions: our international expansion continued despite COVID-19 with new distributors coming on board with NeoCape. We have also pivoted our sales and marketing activities to a more digital offering that can be easily shared with overseas teams, which is already proving worthwhile. Virtual events are enabling us to reach new markets more quickly than we had originally planned – for example, a re-designed UK podiatry event has seen us engaging with new partners in Australia and New Zealand.
Over the years, our international approach has enabled us to develop strong links in over 25 countries and in 2019 16% of our total turnover was export. Today, we work closely with many wonderful overseas distributor teams, with some relationships dating back more than 20 years. As a result, our international distributors really do feel like part of the extended Thesis family.