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Saturday, 01 November 2014

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Exporting is child’s play

A PLAYGROUND manufacturer has received global coverage thanks to being picked as an “export champion” by a government department.

Playdale Playgrounds, which is based at sites in Haverthwaite and Ulverston, was set up in 1978 when Jack Croasdale and his son John – now managing director – built a new community centre at Leven Valley playing fields.

Since then, Playdale has built and installed more than 17,500 playgrounds.

Around four years ago, bosses at Playdale recognised a need to expand further afield and embarked on a global export programme with support from UK Trade and Investment – a government department which works with UK based businesses to ensure their success in international markets through exports.

And the results have been staggering, with the company’s partnership with UKTI leading to publicity in some of the world’s most well-known newspapers such as The Telegraph.

Sales and marketing director Barry Leahey described how the first step was to Google “how do you export” before coming across UKTI.

“We were hungry for growth and contacted UKTI from the very beginning, looking for guidance and introductory information,” Mr Leahey said.

“Initially, UKTI’s Passport to Export scheme gave us useful pointers about how to start exporting, carrying out effective market research and getting our business “export-ready”.

“We have since implemented much of what we learned on that course. As we began to pursue overseas business, our international trade adviser was available to hold our hand, providing supplementary information and answering any queries that arose.

“Even now that we have more confidence to approach new markets, we still get a lot out of UKTI’s workshops, market-specific ‘how to do business’ guides and the in-country support of its local teams.”

Contacts at UKTI used their links to help Playdale to set up meetings with companies in Singapore, one of the world’s most open economies, and the playground firm was able to appoint Playwkz Culture Singapore Pte Ltd as an exclusive local supplier.

“When we visited Singapore, UKTI made sure we made the best possible use of our time,” Mr Leahey said.

“We came away with a distributor, a major contract and around 12 other leads.”

Playdale now has 140 staff and exports about a fifth of its annual turnover of between £14m and £15m, thanks in part to the work of UKTI.

The company now operates in 20 countries across the world, and Mr Leahey praised UKTI for their support.

“Without UKTI and our exceptional ITA in the early days we would not have progressed as far as we have today,” he said.

“We are now in 20 countries and will certainly continue to make use of UKTI’s support as we target the next 20.”

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