Exporting from UK, a Case Study

Raising a glass to the Rouble - Parkinson-Spencer Refractories Ltd

Russia has become one of the top five overseas markets for Parkinson-Spencer Refractories Ltd. Exports to the country have increased by 28 per cent over the past five years. Established in 1800, the firm makes high quality equipment for the glass industry and has been active in Russia for the past 15 years.

In what has become an multi-million pound trade with Russia, the business sells refractories for use in glass melting furnaces as well as glass conditioning systems and sends out regular shipments of spare parts to Russian customers. The firm also undertakes lucrative project work rebuilding furnaces and conditioning systems at up to £1.5 million a time.

“It’s a cracking business,” says commercial and purchasing manager Godfrey Nield. “However, nothing in exporting is ever completely smooth running. In the early days we had a few problems with customs clearance but those days are gone.

“These days we rarely have any issues. We’re normally paid before the products even leave the factory because that’s the way the Russians want to do it.”

Mr Nield cautions prospective British exporters not to expect to clinch sales on their first visit to Russia. He highlights the importance of forging business relationships with clients over a period of time.

“We visited for 18 months before we got our first significant order,” he adds. “They have to gain your trust. But if you play a straight bat and treat them as you yourself would wish to be treated it’s fine.

“One thing I would stress is that they want quality and if you don’t provide that they won’t accept it. Also, if you’re late they take a very dim view of that so we always make sure we’re on time.”

He also advises UK firms not to be afraid to haggle over contractual details if necessary. He says Parkinson-Spencer has never had a reasonable request for changes to a contract be refused.