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Any advice on doing business with Scotland?

newfocus 12 647 2 United Kingdom
15 Jan 2011 12:01AM
I was working with an online advertising business in North East England this week and noticed that the firm currently had good reach into England, Wales and Northern Ireland but much less in Scotland. This got me noticing the same thing with my photography and freelancing, i.e. that in several years of selling prints and providing various freelance and consultancy skills, I'd sold to England, Wales, Ireland, Europe, USA and Australia but not a single sale to Scotland.

So I asked around further and found other small businesses in various sectors who seemed to be experiencing the same thing, i.e. managing to sell to England, Wales and beyond but not Scotland. None of them appeared to be particularly avoiding the Scottish market (as I don't either) so I just wondered if folks who do manage to sell north of the border do anything differently for that market? It's a bit of a puzzler at the moment, maybe not with my print sales as such but certainly when it comes to businesses with more geographically-neutral appeal (for instance, one firm was a hand-made jewellery business which ships all over the world and all over the UK, apart from not having a single Scottish order, ever).

Tips welcome Smile

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Snapper Plus
13 4.3k 3 United States Outlying Islands
15 Jan 2011 12:23AM
You're possibly asking the wrong people so far, but I think the real question would be whether the product or service is better, cheaper or more readily available than what is already on offer in Scotland. There seems to be no shortage of jewellers here from home-made to something big like Ortak, so not readily obvious as to why someone might buy elsewhwere, although they may well browse the web. The majority of people I know who buy online will go with well known sites like Amazon, even though they may actually only be buying via Amazon rather than from Amazon.

Price is a definite big one, with me and plenty others buying large prints on canvas from Snapmad in the Channel Islands as they are particularly cheap at the moment, but we're not the slightest bit bothered where they are actually based. Your post hints at some kind of research with "other small businesses in various sectors", but that might be as little as half a dozen and that's not really representative of quite a big market. Maybe others will have better ideas for you.
newfocus 12 647 2 United Kingdom
15 Jan 2011 11:09AM
Hi Snapper,

Thanks. I definitely wouldn't want to give the impression that what I did was 'research' - I just asked around in a handful of businesses I knew - so it may well be completely unrepresentative. At the same time though, 100% of half a dozen businesses seeing the same thing, some over a period of several years, is at least significant enough to ask whether they're collectively missing a trick or whether this is normal.

I think what you're hinting at in your first paragraph is that Scottish people prefer to buy from Scottish suppliers unless there's a good reason to look further afield and I can't criticise that buy-local-where-possible approach. I understand the value of local relationships, buying from small businesses with personal service and cutting down the distance our products travel. At the end of the day though, all the businesses I talked to were within 100 miles of the Scottish border.

Thanks again for the reply - any further insight still welcome.

Camairish 12 1.4k Scotland
15 Jan 2011 11:40AM
We just don't like parting with our money. There, I've said it before anyone else does.
kaybee 14 5.8k 25 Scotland
15 Jan 2011 11:56AM
I have to agree with Camairish.
I have found at craft sales that the Scottish bunch attend they will not put their hands in their pockets - even when prices are MUCH lower than in England
discreetphoton 13 3.5k 20 United Kingdom
15 Jan 2011 11:57AM
It's true. Copper wire was invented when two of us started fighting over a penny.
Snapper Plus
13 4.3k 3 United States Outlying Islands
15 Jan 2011 12:35PM
Every major retailer prizes intelligence above all else, which is why they are so keen for you to use a loyalty card or to order online for groceries etc. They know better than anyone that there are considerable regional variations in what people buy, and they are able to use this intelligence to stock their shops accordingly. Believe me when I say they will not stock anything that is selling at a slower rate than they predicted, since shelf space is money.

Bringing that closer to the original point, I have friends who have what might best be described as a "tartan shop" with a massive range of items from pocketmoney through to a full kilt outfit at serious s. They stock some really nice stuff, but also things that I can't believe that people will buy, yet they are equally ruthless on stocking policy and only have stuff that has proven to sell in the recent past. If there is a lesson here at all for the OP, it must be that understanding the market comes above all else and that's not so easy to do.

Quote:We just don't like parting with our money. There, I've said it before anyone else does.

He said they've sold in the north of England, but doesn't mention whether they've managed to sell in Yorkshire. Tongue
MikeRC Plus
13 3.6k United Kingdom
15 Jan 2011 3:28PM
[quoteI have found at craft sales that the Scottish bunch attend they will not put their hands in their pockets ]

.....When Jock McTavish turned up at the pearly gates seeking entrance...St. Peter asked him what had he ever done to deserve a place in heaven ?

"I once stood another man a drink"...replied Jock.

"Yours was a worthy deed" said St Peter, "but I'm sorry, we cannot make porridge for one"
newfocus 12 647 2 United Kingdom
15 Jan 2011 10:43PM
Thanks folks - for both the serious advice and keeping it light hearted.

Interestingly - yes - plenty of sales to Yorkshire. Quite proud of that Wink Although I am less than a mile from the Yorkshire border here.

Snapper - you're right - understanding the subtlety of a market is the key and that's essentially why I posted. My little bit of evidence would suggest there's something unique
about the Scottish market (i.e. different from all of England, Wales, Ireland and across the Atlantic) that the handful of North East firms I looked at aren't aware of. Or at least not enough to be able to successfully do business across the border. I'm just interested if anyone here understands that difference enough to be willing to give a bit of friendly business advice.
lemmy 11 2.7k United Kingdom
16 Jan 2011 12:32AM

Quote:A bit of friendly advice

Count your fingers after shaking hands Wink
Toonman 11 1.4k 2 England
16 Jan 2011 7:46AM
I've been selling into Scotland for years. The Scottish are no different to anyone else. If your product is right and there is a market for it then go and sell it. I never forget that I am in a foreign country and treat people with respect. Building a good relationship with your customers (potential) is very important.

Anyway slightly off subject.......why are Fish and Chips (Fish supper) in Scotland twice the price than
across the border? Smile
kaybee 14 5.8k 25 Scotland
16 Jan 2011 10:04AM
Toonman - you must be selling to the English people living up here.
As for the fish suppers ............ they are just ahead of the game. SNP want to slap an extra 35% tax on retailers which will mean everything will be more expensive
Toonman 11 1.4k 2 England
16 Jan 2011 12:24PM
Kaybee. I've been selling in Scotland to the Scottish for over 20 years and have many customers who I get on very well with regardless of my being English however................................ I've just discovered my great grand parents were Scottish and came from Fife to Hartlepool in 1904. So now I'm going to have to stop 'ribbing' my 'Jock' friends. Smile
Camairish 12 1.4k Scotland
16 Jan 2011 10:22PM
Toonman you will be paying the 'English price' for your fish supper. Practice the accent and you'll reap the financial rewards at the chippie counter.
Toonman 11 1.4k 2 England
17 Jan 2011 6:15AM
Thanks Camairish.

I'm not far away with my North East accent!

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