Playdale Playgrounds has used several UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) services to grow its overseas business. Recently, an Overseas Market Introduction Service (OMIS) and Market Visit Support from UKTI helped the company find a distributor in Singapore and secure a £40,000 order for its playground equipment.
Family-owned business Playdale Playgrounds has been making playground equipment for 35 years. It began in 1978 when Jack Croadsdale was building a new community centre at Leven Valley Playing Fields in Haverthwaite in the Lake District. Having checked the cost of replacing the old playground equipment, Jack and his son John decided to make their own, from timber logs. They went on to build three other playgrounds that year and by 1983 their business was firmly established.
To date, Playdale has built over 17,500 playgrounds around the world. All its equipment is quality assured, independently tested by the British Standards Institution and carries the Kitemark as proof of compliance to European Playground Safety Standards.
“Our aim is to develop, manufacture and install safe and exciting outdoor play equipment, providing quality and value for our customers and innovation, fun and challenge for children and teenagers,” says Barry Leahey, Sales and Marketing Director of Playdale Playgrounds Ltd. “We offer an end-to-end service which includes a free Playground Planning and Design Service, installation, inspections and maintenance, all backed by 35 years experience.”
Focus on Exports
Having built a small number of playgrounds overseas, Playdale really began to focus on exporting around four years ago. Looking for the growth potential that new markets could bring, the company’s first step was to contact UKTI for advice about how to get started. An International Trade Adviser (ITA) recommended joining Passport to Export, the UKTI programme that helps businesses to prepare for international markets.
Having decided where to focus its efforts, Playdale commissioned an OMIS for Spain and Germany to learn more. Finding this approach effective, the company went on to us OMIS time and again, asking UKTI to report back on market size, child population stats, whether there is a demand for Playdale’s equipment, what health and safety requirements apply and to identify potential local partners. Where a report shows a target market to be promising, Playdale then arranges a visit so that it can carry out its own assessment. UKTI has provided funding through its Export Market Research Scheme (EMRS) for several of these trips.
“We were hungry for growth and contacted UKTI from the very beginning, looking for guidance and introductory information,” says Barry. “Initially, Passport to Export gave us useful pointers about how to start exporting, carrying out effective market research and getting our business ‘export-ready’. We have since implemented much of what we learned on that course. As we began to pursue overseas business, our ITA was available to hold our hand, providing supplementary information and answering any queries that arose. Even now that we have more confidence to approach new markets, we still get a lot out of UKTI’s workshops, market-specific ‘how to do business’ guides and the in-country support of its local teams.”
Success in Singapore
In January 2013, Playdale commissioned an OMIS about Singapore. As well as market information, the report contained a list of potential distributors, landscape architects, health and safety bodies, local authorities and schools. The local UKTI team went on to schedule a busy week of meetings for Barry when he flew to Singapore in May, accompanying him to show UKTI’s support and facilitate face-to-face introductions. The visit was a great success. Playdale appointed Playwkz Culture Singapore Pte Ltd to be its exclusive local distributor, returning to carry out product training in August 2013. A meeting arranged by UKTI with the Principal of Tanglin Trust School resulted in an order for playground equipment worth £40,000. Several other enquiries have followed.
Meanwhile, Playdale has used other UKTI services. Gateway to Global Growth has helped it to build a network of distributors, and trade missions to India and the UAE have seen the company take its first steps into these countries.
“When we visited Singapore, UKTI made sure we made the best possible use of our time,” says Barry, “We came away with a distributor, a major contract and around 12 other leads. Over the years, we have been delighted with the support we have had from UKTI. As well as OMIS and funding for market visits through EMRS and Gateway to Global Growth, we’ve found trade missions to be incredibly useful, allowing us to bounce ideas around with other like-minded British businesses as we explore new markets. All of this support comes at an affordable cost and the information that we receive is great value. Without UKTI and our exceptional ITA in the early days, we would not have progressed as far as we have today. We are now in 20 countries and will certainly continue to make use of UKTI’s support as we target the next 20.”
The UK and Singapore
Singapore is a trading nation and one of the world’s most open economies. Its total external trade amounts to 360 percent of GDP and it tops the Global Trade Enabling Index (World Economic Forum).
Singapore is the UK’s 12th largest export market of goods outside the EU and the sixth largest for services. Many UK firms use Singapore as an entry point into Southeast Asia and as a result over 1,000 UK firms have a presence there, with many establishing their Regional HQ’s in Singapore.