Trade Towns

Trade Town companies

Are you ready to do business in the US?

Brexit most definitely now does mean Brexit. Irrespective of whether later this year the UK path involves a soft EU friendly transition or a harder WTO terms exit, significant changes to for example regulatory conditions and supply chain circumstances are inevitable.

In any context – from Brexit through to some form of rapprochement with the EU, the US UK economy represents a pillar of strength, stability and opportunity. An important trade and investment partnership when looked at from the US, and the UK’s single largest economic partner, roughly equal to Germany and France combined, when viewed in a UK context. Roughly $250 billion of trade in goods and services takes place every year between the US and the UK, and arguably it is the one single geographic market that alone could deliver growth registering at macroeconomic scale. With or without Brexit it deserves specific focus.



The methodology and process is relatively simple. The distinctive feature of the project is that by a combination of location choice, location based desk top research, and locally directed intelligent engagement, plentiful macro resources already in existence are brought to bear for a focused localised intervention. A worked example of an imagined event in Bulwell, North Nottingham in the ‘‘Trade town companies - are you ready to do business in the US?’ series is an add on appendix to this proposal. Each localised story is subsequently amplified, tracked and reported building a body of knowledge to inspire and inform others. The key deliverables are set out in the goals above.

Type of location

Typically, the location for the Trade Town clinics will be towns, districts and cities of between 25 and 250 thousand people which is often a smaller catchment area than the current scope of geography specific trade and investment workshops in larger cities.

Types of company

The aim is to be useful to companies who have turnover between about 10 million and 1 billion pounds who are either already experiencing the US marketplace and or are considering doing more business in the US.

Content of clinic and duration

Content is a combination of:

  • general checklist US market issues applying generalised methodology of eg IOE , DIT, CBI with US market specific knowledge
  •  Sectoral specifics pre identified
  • Geographical specificities either driven by clinic location or existing USUK footprint
  • Sponsor organisations content
  • Short live survey of delegates

Content research:

  • Map existing local USUK economic connectivity via fdi, export, import
  • Engage with leading local players around existing connectivity to develop case study and learnings and advice
  • Develop a localised ‘front end’ for ‘macro’ capacity tools like IOE, DIT, BC

Personnel involved:

  • A Key note eg local MP or key USUK business player
  • An engaging moderator
  • A local pre identified case study
  • Sponsor content presenter
  • Checklist presenter
  • Local LEP or DIT
  • Digital DIT

Duration and timing

Each Trade Towns clinic would last 2 and a half hours running typically from 2.30pm - 5pm, with networking before during and after, eg coffee 2 - 2.30, tea 3.30 - 4, drinks 5 - 5.30pm for a total engagement time of 3 and a half hours. The aim would be to deliver as much as possible by way of moderated interview and q and a style.

Communications and marketing

Communications and marketing are important and distinctive aspects of the project as they seek to build a national brand identity and proposition for the project around the basic structure of a localised clinic, connecting the most important aspect of trade promotion - ‘boots on the ground’ advice and assistance to ‘bigger picture’ capacity platforms such as ‘Open to export’.

The core communication tool is a Trade Towns website as a content hub built around the unfolding story of a journey around some of the UK’s ‘hidden gem’ places inhabited by the real people and businesses encountered at the events. We aim to celebrate these places and their business folk that you don’t always hear about while we offer a toolkit for doing business in US markets. The website operates as mission control with toolkit content equipping visitors for the US marketplace, a You Tube channel link for cheap publication of visual content from events, modest narrative content on matters arising and social media feeds. As the series progresses the data survey work becomes additional content available to substantiate the Trade Towns world.

Marketing and event location promotion are mainly by network and word of mouth. Putting 30 businesses with a local connection in a room is more challenging than it appears, but as the worked example shows there is a large available network of connections to work with - which of course narrows down the ask to identifying companies to three or four per connection. It is likely that an audience containing 30 businesses would be swelled by a significant representation from the ‘capacity’ community eg LEPs, Chambers, Councillors etc.

Relationship with Listening Post project

Like the ‘Trade Town Companies - Are you ready for business in the US’ series the ‘Listening Post’ project idea is about having a local conversation about things that have traditionally been run in a macro way, like trade negotiations.

Potential partners

National partners

National partners are mainly quite obvious. These are core supporters like BABC, BCC, IOE, CBI, DIT making a contribution of some combination of brand, intellectual property and money. Identification and procurement of commercial partners is also key.

Local partners

Local BABC chapters and affiliates of core national partners will be backbone local partners along with LEPs, Local authorities, Local MPS and councillors, national and international businesses with local roots, and local businesses.


Project Leader is Jeffries Briginshaw

The Project is supported by a single dedicated resource located inside the Project Secretariat who will work with the Project Leader. The Project will need funding from sponsors and will have costs.


  • Agreement of national partners as supporters – mid 2018
  • Selection of pilot location for second quarter 2018 – end first quarter 2018
  • Selection of long list of locations for 2018 – mid 2018
  • Hold pilot event - end 2nd quarter 2018
  • Series half complete review – end Dec 2018
  • Decision on 2019 series – end 3rd quarter 2018
  • 2018 series completes

Worked examples

  • NG6 - Bulwell, North Nottingham, Nottinghamshire population 30,000
  • Political economy and potential partners
  • Nottingham North Constituency - Alex Norris MP
  • Nottingham City Council - Councillor Nick McDonald Bulwell Forest Ward Councillor and Cabinet Member for Growth and Transport
  • East Midlands Region European Parliamentary constituency (LEWER, MCCLARKIN, WILLMOTT,HELMER, PARKER)
  • D2N2 LEP Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Derby, Nottingham - Board Members include Peter Gadsby Ark Capital, David Williams MD Butt Foods and Chair D2N2 Growth Hub Project Board, Melanie Ulyatt - One to One Support Services and Board Representative for SME engagement)
  • Nottinghamshire County Council - N2 Skills and Employment Board
  • Business
  • East Midlands Chamber, Nottingham Office
  • Leadership cohort of major Nottingham based businesses includes Boots, Experian
  • Opportunity cohort of Nottingham businesses include Butt Foods eg (bakery solutions for food services sector with a UK/EU trade footprint)
  • Bulwell businesses - eg LAC Conveyor Systems, Charles Park Industrial Estate
  • Trade Unions
  • Culture, education
  • Nottingham University
  • Nottingham Trent University
  • Marketing Nottingham and Nottinghamshire (nb tourism and fdi mandate but not export)
  • We Love Bulwell
  • USUK historical links - Pilgrim fathers were from North Nottinghamshire, Brewster and Bradford, Mayflower 400 project
  • Location
  • Bulwell Riverside Library, Main Street, Bulwell, Nottingham, NG6 8QJ
  • Community Rooms 1,2, and 3 combined seating capacity up to 70

Trade tools

Practical tips for exporters

1. The Export business case

Trading internationally will allow you to spread risk across a wider range of customers, extend the market for specific products and ensure that you are aware of international competition.

You will see new ideas and opportunities overseas that can help you maintain your home competitive edge in the UK. You can also help maintain stronger ties with existing clients by providing support to them in markets overseas. First export markets will often be where existing customers are based and develop out from relationship management visits to their locations.

Geographic scale, and cross state regulatory complexity particularly for cross state taxation, are challenges to be overcome for North America market access, while the U.S. and Canada are themselves very different.


  • Ensure full internal commitment from the senior management investors and partners – is there genuine ‘buy in’ or is this only a ‘silo’ idea?
  • Fully research your chosen markets – have you run the numbers and surveyed what’s really out there?
  • Develop clear international trade strategies – is this a ‘one off’ or is it a part of a bigger plan about global expansion. North America can be both btw.
  • Develop a well considered market business plan first – stress test it and be demanding in your questioning of your own business case. Do you have a differentiated product that people in this market want to buy?
  • Choose the right market entry approach for your business in the light of the financial cost and control dimensions – do you need to buy a business, just contract with partners, or build your own ‘boots on the ground’?
  • Can you manage North America geography and regulatory complexity, or do you need to partner with an incumbent with scale, knowledge and capability?
  • Make sure you have identified the right people to actually do the business overseas and that they have the right skills – talent matters most.
  • Invest time and care in selecting overseas partners – bad choices can take a long time to unwind.
  • Insulate overseas business development from any home market requirements – don’t over extend yourself.
  • Fully consider market price sensitivities – what could happen to your business model projections over the next few years?
  • Be prepared to modify elements of the service mix to match individual market needs – Boston may be a different marketplace to Charlotte.
  • Provide overseas partners with the same level of support as given to any home market counterparts – technology means that out of sight doesn’t have to mean out of mind.
  • Be organisationally and individually able to adapt to local cultural requirements – even ‘hipsters’ have different styles.
  • Always fully protect your own intellectual property in every market – Strong North America IP rules doesn’t always stop people from trying to steal ideas.