In 2013, the U.S. exported more beauty products to the U.K. than any other country in the world, with over £276.6 million worth of sales. However, according to Gillian Waddell, managing director of Fuel PR International, there is scope for U.S. companies to secure an even bigger market share. Waddell explains, “£276.6 million sounds a lot, but U.K. consumers spent £8.9 billion on beauty and personal care products in 2013. In addition, Mintel expects sales to £10 billion by 2017, so there is a real opportunity for ambitious U.S. beauty companies to either enter the U.K. or grow their market share.”
However, succeeding in the U.K. is easier said than done. The market is highly developed, sophisticated and diversified, and many companies fail because they fail to adapt. “It's not easy launching here; too many people think they can just arrive up and arrange some sort of exclusive time based agreement with a key distributor and then walk away," says Waddell. "It just does not work, and then they are disappointed that they’ve wasted their time and money.”
Many companies tend to think the U.K. will be very similar to their home market, and thus try to apply the same or similar strategies that resulted in success in the home market.
“Take beauty packaging, for example," says Waddell. "U.K. consumers tend to prefer minimalism and simplicity when it comes to design whereas U.S. packaging has historically lent towards heavier fonts and bolder colors. The trick is to satisfy the U.K. consumer without losing the original identity of the brand. U.S. beauty companies should also remember all labels and ingredients need to adhere to the EU packaging regulations, and this can take time—and prove costly if not executed correctly.”
Some words of advice and insights for succeeding in the U.K:
- Identify and find business partners who are properly well placed to help you with market review and research, as well as to prepare for your launch and brand building activities;
- Make sure you like and trust business partners, and if you get a bad smell for any reason, walk away;
- Remember, too, that the right partners will provide you with access to their network of other business suppliers and contacts. Local knowledge and networks will help you go a long way.
A free practical guide covering regulatory, strategy, working with U.K. retailers, branding and the practicalities of operating in the U.K. is available by emailing [email protected].