Purple Line Ltd design and manufacture a wide range of novel products for the recreational vehicle market. The company philosophy is: design, innovate and improve. Their products are supplied in the UK through a network of retail outlets. Based in Wherstead, Suffolk, Purple Line was established in 2003 by the current MD and now employs 13 people. One of Purple Line’s products, the OPUS Camper, recently featured prominently in the BBC’s ‘Apprentice’.
Taking the initiative
Purple Line had enjoyed a modest level of export sales and had previously signed up a couple of retailers in the USA, but they were certain that their export success could be greater. Added to this, Purple Line were starting to receive increasing numbers of customer queries from the USA; this piqued their desire to be more proactive in their export strategy!
Investigating the support offered by UKTI, Paul Liner, Commercial Manager at Purple Line, attended an event focused on ‘Exporting to America’; here he met Jim Fanshawe, an International Trade Advisor for UKTI. Jim explained how UKTI help businesses like Purple Line increase their export sales and recommended the Export Marketing Research Scheme. The EMRS is a UKTI Scheme providing professional advice and funding to help businesses understand the dynamics of a potential overseas market before creating an appropriate strategy for launching in this market and there is a nationwide team of professional Research Advisers to support individual companies.
Paul met with Alice Mamier, the Research Adviser for Suffolk, and explained their current business situation and future aspirations, focusing on the USA opportunity. They decided to centre the research on Purple Line’s new Remote Power-trailer Mover, an innovative product enabling vehicles to be manoeuvred via a remote control. Paul explained how they needed to understand whether the product was appropriate for the USA market and whether any modifications were required, what was the best route to market (should they go straight to the retailers or find a distributor), the ideal price point and importantly the ‘hook’ to attract customers to the product.
Alice helped Paul to create a plan which would enable these key strategic decisions. Paul was delighted, “I really liked the EMRS! Indeed, every time I’ve used any of the UKTI services I’ve found the people really go above and beyond to help me. In fact, I’ve had a positive outcome each time I’ve contacted them!”
In the spring of 2012, Paul travelled from California, up the West Coast of the USA to Oregon then Washington undertaking 14 meetings, as per his planned itinerary, speaking with camping and touring retailers, (including interviewing customers in the stores), distributors and UKTI people in the LA embassy. “Special thanks to the guys in the LA office who were so helpful and put me in touch with lots of really useful people so I could plan a comprehensive itinerary,” enthused Paul.
Clearly a market
The research trip was a success. It was clear there was a market, especially amongst the 65+ camping and touring fraternity, for whom the product enabled the freedom to continue their camping trips despite their inability to manoeuvre their vehicles physically. The research identified some necessary alterations, such as a mandatory ‘jockey wheel’ and a customised adaptor plate; the price point, whilst initially considered high, could be justified once the product was clearly explained, highlighting the need for a strong local presence. It was apparent that the ideal route to market would be through a national distributor, ideally serviced by a local Purple Line presence. "There was another really useful finding which we hadn’t even considered," explained Paul, "There’s a big opportunity to sell the product when the vehicle is purchased, enabling its cost to be included in the finance package. This was very appealing to our target audience!"
The research findings not only enabled Purple Line to develop their strategy for the new Remote Power-trailer Mover, but also helped them refine their overall business proposition for the USA. Now, with confidence in the potential market, some very interested retailers and promising initial sales,Purple Line are setting up a Sales Office in the USA. Paul, preparing to move to the USA to run the new office, described the Purple Linekey ‘hook’, "We found that our innovative products allow the older generation to continue with a hobby they truly love."