UK vacuum firm Gtech is scouting out a Japanese distribution partner after a surprise success in Taiwan helped international sales surge 250% last year.
Founder and owner Nick Grey said the company – which also designs and sells garden tools and electric bikes – is making an international comeback after scaling back global sales in recent years.
“We sort of expanded so fast in the UK, we pretty much stopped exporting for a while. We just couldn’t handle it,” he told the Press Association.
“We’re now looking at markets again … and Japan is definitely one of those,” Mr Grey said.
Local partnerships are now being explored.
“TV shopping tends to play a big part in Japan so we will probably look for someone primarily that is very experienced in TV shopping and demonstrating innovative products to the public.”
The founder of the Worcester-headquartered firm said he has already made contact with some of those businesses.
Gtech – the eponymous brand short for Grey Technology – regained its international appetite soon after an out-of-the-blue approach by Taiwanese distributor Kevin Quo, and began selling in the region by 2013.
“Taiwan was sort of a happy accident,” Mr Grey said.
With a deal struck, Mr Quo later sent Gtech’s multi cordless vacuum cleaner to a blogger known simply as 486 who gave it a glowing review in 2015 after hoovering his mattress.
Riding on the wave of a cultural focus on hygiene, demand soon soared.
Gtech sold 40,000 products in Taiwan last year, resulting in local revenues more than doubling last year from £3.8 million in 2016 to £8.4 million.
It contributed to a 250% rise in international sales to £17.9 million, which now account for about 15% of group revenues that came in at £121 million for 2017.
Mr Grey is now designing models to appeal to a Taiwanese – and now Japanese – consumer base.
“They like clean products, they like products that are compact, they don’t like big heavy products, and they like them to be quite high tech as well – so we definitely factor that into our new product design,” he said.
“Having seen the success we have in Taiwan, we’ve certainly got our eye on Japan… they’re not identical but they do share some cultural values.
“So we’d certainly like to design some products that would appeal to both Japan and Taiwan and they’re well on their way through our systems actually.”
The company currently designs its products in the UK, where it also houses its customer services, marketing and branding operations.
But while its manufacturing is currently done in China, Mr Grey hopes to bring some of that business home as early as 2020.
“I’d really like to start manufacturing some of our products in the UK, that’s something that’s very much on our mind and we’ve started looking at it and it’s not proving quite as easy as we’d hoped.
“But I still think it’s very realistic and I think a percentage of our products could be manufactured in the UK in the foreseeable future.”