Hall-Fast’s Department for International Trade Export Success Profile

Tell us about your company?

Based in Mansfield Hall-Fast are a proud family business which I started from the back bedroom of the family home in August 2006, we have come a long way since and now supply a standard range of 200,000 items (650,000+ part numbers) to a growing customer base of 45,000+ companies in 92 overseas markets.

Our rapid growth has been based on supplying SME's and large manufacturing and wholesale customers Worldwide backed with an online based business model which enables us to keep our costs low and therefore pass on huge savings to our customers on the industrial supplies and equipment, specialist fasteners, workwear, tools, PPE and janitorial items which they were purchasing from our large multinational competitors.

Tell us briefly about your export history?

At the height of the recession in 2009 when our core UK markets were depressed, with the guidance and support of the DIT I decided to diversify and start to export as I saw this as a huge opportunity for us, the traditional route to exporting within our sectors was to undertake market visits and set up commercial agreements with local distributors however we neither had the time or the finance to do this.

I foresaw the huge growth in the internet that we see today so we initially focussed on adding as much technical information on our products to our website, added part numbers within our titles and added keywords to product pages and we made it clear to potential customers overseas that we could export our product ranges globally and importantly we took the decision to supply companies directly and not via local distributors subsequently our prices were very competitive and we started to see enquiries and sales coming through almost immediately; this approach was pretty pioneering and proven to be very successful for us.

What have been the main challenges and breakthroughs?

We have overcome a few major challenges since I started the business, firstly the recession of 2008 and then back in December 2016 we had a huge setback when development work on our old website caused unrepairable damaged, at the time we had twelve multilingual international websites which were linked into the one database backend, we had huge issues with prices on our international websites being different to the UK website and we also lost years of organic search listings when the Location Based Indexing hreflang tag on our UK website www.hall-fast.com was changed to tell Google to show our Irish website to visitors in the UK.

In January 2017 I took the decision to invest heavily in a new Magento based website with a fully integrated Datafile ERP software system, this decision has really pushed the business forward as our website is now fully integrated with our accounts, stock, CRM and order processing making it almost fully automated, this means that we can process an unlimited amount of orders quickly enabling us to aggressively target markets sectors Worldwide.

Over the last six months sales have grown by 87 per cent with export sales accounting for circa 40 per cent.

What single piece of advice would you give to someone looking to export?

There are huge opportunities for UK SME’s to export but I think that potential new exporters are put off as they believe it to be difficult, trading overseas is as easy as trading within the UK, however no two overseas markets are the same so it is important to understand the trading terms and the documentation requirements for each enquiry or order that they receive, the DIT are always on hand to assist as are the Chamber of Commerce with this support the opportunities in overseas markets are endless.

For more info, visit www.hall-fast.com or https://www.insidermedia.com/blogs/midlands/business-matters-trading-internationally-challenges-and-breakthroughs 

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