UK’s only trombone maker aims to hit right note with China

31 August 2017


Britain’s sole trombone manufacturer, whose instruments have been played by celebrated international musicians, including Count Basie Orchestra, the Berlin Opera and world-famous Black Dyke Mills band, has contracted overseas trade specialist, Chamber International, to help it export to China.

Rath Trombones, Honley, West Yorks, which makes 20 different models of instrument for playing jazz to orchestral works, has appointed Chamber International’s China affairs associate, Matthew Grandage, to help gain a better understanding of Chinese business culture.

Founder, Mick Rath (pictured below), and his wife, Nikki, who employ nine skilled craftspeople, applying traditional skills which have almost died out in Britain, have already sold their instruments to 25 countries. They have dealers in the USA, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and Europe and export more than 60 per cent of total sales.

UK’s only trombone maker asks Chamber International to help it hit the right note with China

Mick Rath, who started playing the tuba when he was aged 11, says: “Ours are high-quality instruments made by British craftspeople. This, and the fact that a modular design enables customers to interchange components to ensure a perfect instrument for most trombone players, gives us wide appeal to players and dealers overseas.

“The trombone market is fairly small and we need to export to keep growing. We cannot rely on the UK alone to sustain business  and exporting enables us to take advantage of fluctuating economies and exchange rates. 

“We’ve been trying to get into China, a large and increasingly wealth market with good arts funding, for some time.  However, a lack of understanding of Chinese business culture, which is very different to ours, is holding us back. Matthew Grandage is helping me understand this and, if it enables us to sell there, it can trigger a further 25 per cent sales growth. We could end up exporting 75 per cent of our products.”

Rath Trombones was founded in 1992 and developed prototypes, creating its first professional standard instrument by 1996. The company started exporting in 1997 and, since then instruments have also been bought by The Central Band of the Royal Air Force, The Royal Military School of Music, The Scots Guards, Her Majesty's Royal Marines Band Service, the US and Norwegian Armed forces, London Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony orchestra, Welsh National Opera and Grimethorpe Colliery Band.

Matthew Grandage says: “Visiting Rath Trombones’ factory is a privilege – you know you're meeting top craftsmen in their field.  Professional musicians will recognise and value that quality as it transcends international boundaries.

“But quality and craftsmanship don't make export success automatic.  Mick Rath understands that every country has its own culture when it comes to purchasing, and China is no exception.  Understanding this is often the difference between success and disappointment in overseas markets. That's why Mick sought Chamber International's advice, and we are proud to a part of Rath Trombones’ exciting export journey.”

Chamber International helps hundreds of new and experienced exporters with a wide range of specialist services to make exporting easier and more cost effective and is the UK’s sole supplier of hand-held, cloud-based business management tool, ‘edge’, which enables companies to access client records, control stock, issue quotations, create trade documents and raise invoices to fulfill export orders from anywhere worldwide by using a smart phone or any web-linked device.


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