Can you guess how many Britons come to Slovenia on holidays with a Slovenian motor home? Or who made the glass in which a famous British producer of non-alcoholic drinks presented its new cocktail at Wimbledon, or what the odds are that a marker pen from a British producer was made in Slovenia?
These are only a few products used by Slovenian companies to pave their way to the British market. We asked them how their businesses fared this year and what novelties they have in store for their customers in Britain.
How many British come to Slovenia with a Slovenian motor home?
The leisure vehicle producer Adria Mobil has been loyal to the British market since 1969. This loyalty has paid off, as Great Britain is now its fourth-largest market, and the company can pride itself on a number of recognitions and awards, including the most prestigious one - the Customer Satisfaction Award, presented by buyers of leisure vehicles in Great Britain. This year, Adria Mobil won this trophy for the fifth year in a row and their brand was also recognized as the Overall Winner with the highest possible score.
Great Britain has always been at the forefront in terms of the number of newly registered motor homes, right after Germany and France; however, success does not come by itself. When asked what is important to succeed on the British market, Adria Mobil replied that it is necessary to recognize which are the special features relevant to British customers. “Compared to the continental countries, the weather in Great Britain permits the buyers of leisure vehicles to enjoy their leisure time outside their motor home or caravan less frequently and thus they spend much more time inside their vehicles. This is why the comfort, homeliness, warmth and spaciousness of the interior are much more important to them than to the customers in the continental countries,” the company has noticed. In Great Britain, customers increasingly prefer buying camper vans – leisure vehicles similar to vans. Following this trend, Adria Mobil has presented a new series of products with a large panoramic sunroof for the 2019 season. “This season, we also presented a new product to our British customers – a motor home with a spacious seating unit, which is ideal for their needs. In the segment of caravans for families, we have launched a new caravan, Adora Sava, which is named after a river in Slovenia, because such names of individual products also ensure Slovenia’s visibility.”
Adria Mobil’s customers on the British market are mostly families and the so-called empty nesters, who gladly take their grandchildren on vacation. “Unlike the buyers of caravans, the buyers of motor homes do not stay only in Great Britain; they also travel a lot to the continent, and in recent years, they have also been discovering Slovenia. Organized in various caravanning clubs, they also visit the seat of Adria Mobil in Novo Mesto,” the company representatives add proudly. Adria Mobil’s subsidiary in Great Britain, Adria Concessionaires Ltd, is in face-to-face contact with customers, which enables a specific and necessary input to the development department of the parent company. This is also the reason why the Adria brand is now recognized in the British market as a leading non-British provider in the leisure industry. Last year, the company generated 8 percent of its total sales in Britain, and it is also doing well this year.
Steklarna Hrastnik place their bets on producers of gin and whisky
The British market is also a strategic market for Steklarna Hrastnik, one of the largest glass manufacturers of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire. Nowadays, this company with over 150 years of tradition is present in the British market with two brands - the HighGlass spirits collection in the spirits segment and the HighGlass perfumes collection in the perfume segment. With its tableware programme, the company made it to the shelves of five retail chains, and its glassware is also used by owners of prestigious brands for presentations of their products. “A well-known brand used glasses from our new Freya collection for a presentation of its new cocktail in Wimbledon,” said the glass maker from Hrastnik.
It sees new opportunities in the British market, particularly in the spirits segment, where it wants to find its way to the owners of brands with distilleries in Great Britain. With this in mind, the company presented itself last year to producers of spirits in Glasgow and this year they repeated the presentation in Edinburgh. “This is how we gradually, but carefully, build on our visibility in the British market, in particular in the craft distillery segment. Namely, Scotland and Ireland are becoming major producers in this segment, in particular of gin and whiskey. Based on our experience, we can say that the bottles from our own HighGlass spirits collection are the most interesting for this segment,” underlined the representatives of the glass manufacturer, which is also traditionally featured at the World Drinks Award conference in London.
A majority of the glass manufacturer’s projects is carried out through their own distributors in accordance with their clients’ designs, which is precisely what enables them to be flexible in terms of produced quantities. “We can produce both large and small quantities of products for our clients, including orders for very small, boutique series,” they added.
Vivapen: our British customers love to visit Slovenia
If you buy a marker pen or an ink cartridge from a British producer, there is a possibility that they were made in Slovenia. More precisely, they were likely produced at Vivapen, a family business which is present in the niche market for the dynamic producers of limited-edition pens, enriched with decorative print. In Britain, it has been present since 1992. At first, the company only sold inks, ink cartridges and a small share of ink erasers there, but in recent years it has also sold various marker pens, creative sets and its latest product - the MOON art pen, a pen with ink cartridges for which it received a golden award for innovation in Slovenia.
In recent years, Vivapen has been growing on the British market both in terms of revenue and the share of exports. While the company generated 1.85 percent of its total exports on that market in 2016, this increased to 3.89 percent last year and by the end of this September it had increased to 4.85 percent, emphasized Petra Melanšek, who has taken over the management of Vivapen from her father, Jože. “When my father engaged in the sales of our products, we were mostly present on the German-speaking market and this changed after 1992. I have always been very fond of Great Britain and I also like their culture, which is why it was quite ‘easy to launch’ sales there. We met our customers at a fair and made friendly contacts. We have never traded in British pounds, but always in the current currency: first the German mark, and later the Euro. They love to visit Slovenia, both for business affairs and with their families,” says Mrs. Melanšek.
The main customer of Vivapen in the British market is Manuscript, the company which specializes in calligraphy and products and pens for creative writing and drawing. “Most of Manuscript’s exports go to North America. In order to obtain certificates to sell products in the American market, the right materials must be chosen, and as a producer, we enable this,” underlined Mrs. Melanšek. Vivapen’s own brand is not present in the British market, but they produce for recognised customers and they enjoy the advantage of largely automated and robotized production. “Automation and robotization allow us to optimize costs, which is a win-win situation for us and for our customers. They take over the marketing, so that we can focus on where we are needed the most– the development of processes, products and materials,” further observed Mrs. Melanšek. Vivapen, which generates more than 98 percent of its sales abroad, is projected to make EUR 7.5 million in sales revenues this year.
The British market brings Plastika Skaza a fifth of its revenue
The company Plastika Skaza is predominantly an exporter. Last years, its sales on foreign markets represented 89 percent of its total revenue, amounting to EUR 34 million. The data on this year’s operation imply that the company will reach the set goals, which means that the annual revenue is projected to increase by 5 percent and thus exceed EUR 40 million for the first time in the company’s history.
Plastika Skaza has been working for decades on the British market with partners in the furniture and electronics industries, which supply the British market with finished products containing Skaza products. It was through international corporations that the company managed to enter the British market, which brings seven million euros per year, i.e. 18 percent of the total revenue.
They also have a distributor in Great Britain to distribute their own brand Skaza (specialized shops for camping and caravanning) and for active online sales. In Great Britain, end customers mostly opt to buy coloured reusable cups.
The British market is important to the company because of its size, the inhabitants’ attitude to sustainable development and its purchasing power, as well as for being a reference for entry to other international markets. Despite the uncertain circumstances as a consequence of Brexit, the company wants to maintain a continuous and steady growth in Great Britain and they will focus their efforts on further promotion of their own-brand products. In particular, they will focus on two sustainable solutions – the Bokashi Organko 2 kitchen composter and the Pick&Go picnic set.
Arctur: “Brexit will not change our plans in the British market”
With mathematical models and numeric simulations, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can significantly improve the features of their products and develop new ones. This is the niche market of the Arctur company, a leading provider of high-performance computing services, which is already generating one-fifth of its exports in the British market. Buyers of Arctur’s services in Britain include high-tech companies operating in niche markets, such as Zyba Ltd, which develops wave energy power plants; Icon Ltd, which produces software for aerodynamics simulations for the automotive industry; and PowerKut Ltd, which is active in Industry 4.0, to name just a few.
According to Tomi Ilijaš, the director of Arctur, the company paved its way to the British market in 2011, when they met Professor Mark Parsons, the director of the EPCC supercomputing centre at the University of Edinburgh, which resulted in a very fruitful cooperation. “We operate in two fields: research and development, where we are working together with the EPCC on three large European projects, and we have also been co-marketing high-performance computing services to various British hi-tech companies. We also cooperate with some other universities in Great Britain and these were the references that opened the door to other international markets for us,” he underlined. This year, the company broke new ground in Slovenia, namely, in tourism, where they started developing the platform Tourism 4.0 to connect tourism providers and tourists. This is currently the largest research and development project in tourism in the history of Slovenia and Mr. Ilijaš added that it is interesting that a similar project is now being conducted by the partner EPCC in Scotland. “Although investments in the development of the tourism platform will pay off only in the coming years, we have already significantly expanded our team this year and employed top experts from various fields, not only computing,” he said. And what’s next? Mr. Ilijaš answered that they do not intend to change their strategy in the British market because of Brexit. “Perhaps there will be fewer joint research and development projects after Brexit, but economic cooperation, which is at least equally if not even more important for us, will probably even expand,” he further emphasised.
Weiler Abrasives penetrating the British market, collecting awards at home
Entering new markets is also the main strategy of the company Weiler Abrasives d. o. o., one of the leading manufactures of artificial abrasives and technical fabrics in Europe, which is a member of the global Weiler Abrasives Group. They have been present on the British market for 35 years, and last year, they launched their new brand there, the Metalynx, and the company is very ambitious regarding it. “The Metalynx product line is available in two quality levels - PRO and MAX - and it enables customers to reduce operational costs by increasing productivity,” emphasised the Slovenian company, which annually generates more than EUR 3 million of revenue on the British market.
For the purpose of expanding into the British market, Weiler Abrasives d. o. o. has joined forces with a local partner, International Abrasives of Leicester, a fast-growing company which specializes in abrasives and has excellent knowledge of the British market. The company is committed to constant innovation, and it is their innovative products that open doors to the most important customers on global markets. Some of their innovations received awards; among others, the company received a golden award of the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce for the development of new production technology for UltraCut thin cutting wheels, the key part of their new Metalynx brand.