A Midlands knitwear and wool company has experienced 500% growth this year – boosted in part by a huge increase in export sales of its DIY crochet kits.
TOFT, which designs and manufactures alpaca, wool yarn and knitwear at its studio in Rugby, has seen sales overseas soar after it began working with an international trade adviser from the Department for International Trade (DIT) in Coventry.
As well as participating in a number of export masterclasses, the company received funding from the DIT to attend the H+H Cologne show, the international craft show that takes place annually in Germany, in March. This opened up the European market and boosted its overseas sales by about £20,000.
It received further funding to enable it to take part in The National NeedleArts Association (TNNA) Trade Show in Washington DC, USA, in May, where it won £20,000 worth of business, with more sales coming through since.
Christine Hamilton, interim regional director of the Department for International Trade West Midlands, said:
“Our export experts provide a huge range of support to businesses and by securing funding so TOFT could attend these key trade shows, we’ve helped this innovative and dynamic business grow globally.
“It’s great news to see a creative business from the West Midlands enjoying such success overseas and we continue to offer our advice and support so that it can achieve even greater heights.”
TOFT now has about 100 stockists across the continent – many of which are in Germany and the Netherlands – and has had to have the instructions on its crochet kits translated into 12 languages, including Japanese, Finnish and French.
Even the instructions on the packaging for the USA market, where it has 30 stockists, had to be changed to ensure the terminology was suitable for American English readers.
Kerry Lord, who launched the company in 2006, said:
“A lot of our new stockists and customers have come through the shows, which is great, and that’s down to the help our trade adviser gave us. It has meant we have been able to move into territories we weren’t in before. We’re doing very well in the States, where we are selling direct as well as to trade.
“The trade arm of our business was virtually non-existent 12 months ago and it has boomed this year, with exports being a huge part of that. We’re particularly proud to be selling in Japan because the style of crochet in the kits – amigurumi – is Japanese.”
Using wool imported from the Falkland Islands, which is then manufactured at Laxtons Mill near Leeds, TOFT produces new designs for its crochet kits every week, plus launches two large collections every season.
The company, which also runs workshops from its studio, has doubled its staff roll-call to 14 in the past 12 months to meet the growing demand for all its products.
Any West Midlands company wanting to find out how the Department for International Trade can provide support for export, should visit www.exportingisgreat.gov.uk to search and apply for opportunities, access expert advice, trade services, training and events.