No ‘buts’ as Chamber International helps IF Plc target China

18 December 2017


An innovative North Yorkshire book and reading-related business, which already exports more than half its turnover to 70 different countries, has appointed overseas trade specialist, Chamber International, to help its develop sales in China.

Pickering-based IF Plc, which designs and manufactures a wide range of aids for book lovers, received its first enquiries from China this year after seeking advice from Chamber International's China specialist, Matthew Grandage, who lived and worked in China for 15 years and speaks fluent Mandarin.

As a result, the company, whose products include book holders, bookmarks, reading glasses, magnifiers, sticky notes and reading lights, asked Chamber International for a 1-1 China clinic to help it develop a comprehensive strategy for selling to this crucial market.

In China 1-1 Clinics, Chamber International visits companies’ premises and uses their computers to help them mine the complex Chinese Internet and gain greater understanding of their sector, including sales potential, competitors and distributors.  In IF Plc’s case,  Chamber International also brought in international intellectual property (IP) law firm James Love Legal, Harrogate, to help with discussions.

IF Plc international sales manager, Isabelle Nourry (pictured below), says: “Chamber International also gave us a lot of advice on best practice when dealing with Chinese companies, including the importance of job titles and friendship building, which was very useful in ensuring that we started correctly. 

CHINA BOUND: IF Plc international sales manager, Isabelle Nourry, at the company’s headquarters in Pickering, North Yorkshire.

“We were also informed us about operational issues, including how businesses must take care to register their IP in China. If someone else, such as a distributor or competitor, beats them to it by applying for that trademark first, a business will find it almost impossible to get back the rights to their own trademark and branding there, as the first to apply will normally win.

“This information has been crucial for us, as the distributor we have started dealing with in China wanted to register our trademarks there on our behalf. If we had allowed them to do so, we would have been at risk of losing rights to our trade name and logo there but, by following Chamber International’s advice, we have retained control of the full process and, should we one day decide to separate from our local partner, we will be able to take our IP with us.

“Sales have started well in China. We hope it will become one of our main markets and see potential for continuing to work with China International.”

IF Plc, which was founded in 1996, manufactures its products in China and sells through book, gift and department stores, airlines, opticians and visitor attractions worldwide including Europe, US, Singapore, and Turkey with its most successful product being its Really Tiny Book Light which has just been re-launched.

The company, which has 28 staff, has produced more than 100 original items and sold more than 20m products worldwide with 90 per cent of sales being repeat orders. The business, which started exporting in 1998, has a £4.5m turnover about 54 per cent of which comes from overseas sales.

Matthew Grandage, says: ”IF Plc's name and logo are crucial and feature on many of their products so how best to safeguard their IP was no simple matter. Thankfully, we were able to identify the risk to their business just in time, and steer them clear of a potentially dangerous situation, which could have been costly to resolve and compromised their entry into the Chinese market. 

“With the right IP strategy now in place, IF Plc is ready to expand its business in China safely, and we look forward to supporting the company in this exciting new market."


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