Posted: Fri 30th Nov 2012
It may not be the first thing you think of when finding routes for market, but it's literally a 'sales channel'. Gemma Clarke, global vice-president of London-based Tangle Teezer tells the story of how TV home-shopping channels have generated an explosion of sales in Taiwan and China.
The Tangle Teezer was invented by hair industry professional Shaun Pulfrey and launched in 2007, writes Gemma (left). After working in the hair industry for many years and seeing how hairdressers struggled to detangle fragile hair, he came up an innovative hair detangling brush which is now taking Asia by storm. Just five years since Shaun launched the business - self-financed after being turned down on Dragons' Den - sales in Asia will account for Â£20 million at retail sales value in 2012 and will help to increase our export sales by more than 35 per cent.
Much of this success is due to our appearance on home-shopping channels in Taiwan and China.
A spot of endorsement
Our Asian story first unfolded in 2010 when we unexpectedly started getting over 200 orders a day from customers in China and Chinese ex-pats around the world. We were intrigued as we hadn't started to target these markets. We soon discovered, however, that a Chinese model had bought a Tangle Teezer in Boots in Oxford Street. Delighted with her new product, she had raved about it on her hugely popular beauty blog read by Chinese all around the world. This was partly our catalyst for exploring our potential across Asia. We were spurred on by the fact that the demographics for our young, fashionable branded product were exactly right, and growing within Asia. I had also studied at one of China's most prestigious universities, so was both knowledgeable and passionate about the culture and the potential of the market there.
Picking perfect partners
However, I was very aware that we needed to tread carefully and slowly to ensure that we found the right partners - this is one of the most challenging things about doing business in Asia. Initially, we had a plethora of approaches and shifting through these to identify the serious contenders took time and commitment. Because Tangle Teezer was a very new concept for the haircare market, we felt there were benefits in finding a sales medium that enabled demonstration. After all, our initial burst of UK sales was driven by our success on the QVC Home Shopping Channel in the UK. So it felt like a logical step to explore the potential of home shopping in Taiwan and China, where our target market had grown up shopping online and on-screen. Focusing on these channels also supported the cost of trade at such a distance. After much hard work we secured a partnership with Fubon Multimedia, a home shopping channel network, retail chain and catalogue retailerÂ withÂ a more than 400m viewers across Taiwan and China. We first tested our product in the Taiwanese market before moving into China.
The sky's the limit
In the last 12 months, we've sold more than 400,000 brushes through the home shopping platform. Every time a Tangle Teezer is shown in Taiwan, we sell 20,000 brushes an hour!Â Â Much of this due to local presenters who can highlight the benefits of our product to the audience - in Asia it's used to promote shine and keep hair straight, rather than detangle. Although we have only recently started on the home shopping channel in China, to fulfil the potential we've invested in new machinery in our factory in Oxfordshire and increased production there. We predict that next year we'll sell an additional four million brushes in this market alone!Â With home-shopping sales going well we then hope to expand onto web beauty portals and then beauty retail at a later date.
Gemma's tips and insights for doing business in Taiwan and China
1. Be patient. Success in Asia has as much to do with passion as hard work and insight - but you need to take your time. It's better to grow slowly with the right partner and strategy than to jump at potential volumes on offer and live to regret it. 2. Prove your credentials. We couldn't believe how strict our Chinese partners have been with us in terms of our intellectual property. We had to jump through hoops to prove we owned the trade mark, the patent, the logo and the design because they wanted to be 100 per cent sure they were dealing with a genuine company and not a fake. 3. Tap into trends. British fashion and beauty are highly regarded in Asia and the kudos of a well-designed, quality British product is huge. Having glossy magazine editorial and celebrity endorsement adding to the desirability factor of the Tangle Teezer. 4. Think differently. Realise that your normal business model, and your normal preconceptions of how to launch your product or service may simply be out-dated within Asia Tangle Teezer is based in Clapham, London, and employs ten people. The company has been awarded The Queen's Award for Enterprise in Innovation and worked with UK Trade & Investment's Passport to Export programme for new exporters when first looking at export markets.