Why limit your ambition when the world is there at your feet?
Alexia McClure, head of operations at Jersey Business, looks at how the Island's local service sector is spearheading international expansion.
I LOVE my job. I work with a fantastic team of people. I am passionate about our purpose and the value we deliver to individual businesses and the economy as a whole. I’m also fascinated and inquisitive about business and every day I learn something new, either about a business I hadn’t known about before or about what businesses in Jersey are facing and achieving.
In an island which is dominated by a very successful international finance sector, it is a constant surprise to me how many of our non-finance businesses are equally global. Many people, when they think about local business, have the high street in mind along with their favourite electrician, beauty house, mechanic or hairdresser. Of course all those businesses provide essential products and services that make our lives better, but unbeknown to us, many of those businesses are also servicing an off-island customer base that enables them to thrive.
The retail sector is an interesting example of this. A number of our successful stores have a digital presence, particularly on social media, which allows them to sell to the UK and further afield. These sales enable our favourite outlets to be financially sustainable and, as a result, we, their local customers, benefit from their ability to maintain a vibrant offering.
It’s not just retailers who are selling in this way. Local producers of food, clothing and crafts are reaching customers across the world by promoting their products online. With a digital presence, our small businesses can grow and develop without having to commit to a costly physical outlet that would make them unviable.
And there are far more businesses in Jersey doing this than you would imagine. Seventy-five companies are signed up to Jersey Post’s Import VAT Accounting Scheme, which manages the tax on exports to the UK, and Jersey Post sends 4.7 million packages out of Jersey every year. Of these, 4.1 million are destined for Europe. Given that the vast majority of these packages are being sent by our local businesses, and other carriers also move products out of Jersey, you can see the volume of exports going to off-island customers.
In addition to these local producers, we also have businesses whose products are made in the UK or elsewhere and sold internationally, but which are managed in Jersey. These ambitious local entrepreneurs are choosing to manufacture in a way that enables them to sell at a price which means they can access global markets.
How lucky are we as an island to have such a broad range of local businesses sending Jersey products across the world, adding in time to the prestige associated with Jersey’s iconic dairy and potato products?
Don’t think that this international outlook sits only with our producers, because that is far from the case. Online digital businesses and our local service sector are also spearheading international expansion. In fact it is true to say that many of these businesses think internationally right from the start.
If you are selling your creativity or software as a service, why would you limit your options to a mature and well supplied island economy? I’m not saying that a local business wouldn’t or shouldn’t support other Island organisations, but why limit your options to just those in your immediate vicinity where the world, or perhaps the English-speaking world, is at your feet?
I think the breadth of Jersey’s existing exporting success has only just come to my attention because it is only in the past 12 months that we have really started to develop our support for businesses selling internationally. We are now working closely with colleagues in the Government of Jersey’s External Relations team who have an excellent reach into jurisdictions across the world.
By working collaboratively with government and our other partners, we are able to seek out and access contacts in international markets where Jersey’s local businesses have an opportunity to sell products or services. Of course the UK remains Jersey’s biggest export destination, but we are also pursuing opportunities in France, India, USA, the Middle East and South Africa.
So to all business owners out there who have growth aspirations for your business, follow in the footsteps of La Mare, Plumbs Lingerie, Provis, Sleepwell, TSG Technology Services, Calligo, The Potting Shed and Pinpoint, amongst others. And get in touch with us to find out more about our export initiatives.