UK Trade & Investment yesterday launched Great Weeks, a series of high-profile international trade visits designed to take British luxury, creative, retail and food industries into lucrative emerging markets.
The initiative extends 2012’s "Great" campaign, which accompanied the Olympics and Paralympics, and, in an echo of New Labour’s "Cool Britannia", aims to build on Britain’s reputation abroad for creativity and innovation.
Lord Green of Hurstpierpoint, Minister of State for Trade and Investment, told the assembled delegates, who included industry figures, brand representatives and press: "In the context of the national challenge we all face as an economy, I believe these sectors have a critical role to play,"
He added that while big British companies invest significantly overseas, it is SMEs that need to be encouraged to trade internationally.
"We are behind the curve in European terms for the percentage of smaller businesses that access the international markets. One way of defining the challenge is to say we’d like to get up to the European average, which would mean something like 100,000 extra smaller companies involved in international trade than is currently the case."
Lord Green said that target countries included not only the well-known growth markets such as China and India, but smaller countries such as Indonesia, Thailand and Colombia, all of which have a growing middle class sector seeking to buy luxury and branded goods.
"I’ve travelled in 56 countries since I’ve been doing this job, and I haven’t had a single country… where the brand of Britain doesn’t stand extremely high. And the Olympics just turned the after-burners on. We may have forgotten about the Olympics, but I can assure you that’s not true around the world."
From the Prime Minister’s Office, Conrad Bird, director of the Great campaign, said that the campaign was about generating jobs and growth for Britain, and cited fashion as an industry that would help the campaign with all its objectives, including inward investment, supporting exporters, attracting shoppers and graduates. "All the four objectives I talk about – trade, inward investment, education and tourism – are captured by our world-leading fashion industry."
Other speakers at the event included Sir John Sorrell, UK Business Ambassador and Chairman of the London Design Festival; Michael Ward, MD of Harrods; Laura Faulkner, Deputy Director for the UK Service Industries and Global Sector Lead for Retail, Luxury and Food and Drink; Sue Bishop, Director of Service Industries – Strategic Trade; and Paul Alger, Director of International Business Development at the UKFT.
The Great Weeks will take place in 10 countries: Vietnam, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Brazil, Hong Kong & Macao, United Arab Emirates, China, USA and Turkey.
Each Week, which costs £750 to join, will be location-specific and is designed to help brands meet and network with influential figures in the market, learning how to develop business prospects. Market familiarisation sessions, seminars, workshops, economic briefings, one-to-one "speed dating" sessions with targeted buyers, an in-country marketing campaign in local media outlets, and a VIP reception hosted at the Ambassador’s Residence or similar location.
Great Weeks will be holding Roadshows across the UK in September, to recruit companies to the initiative. Details of when and where to attend and how to register an interest can be found at www.greatweeks.co.uk