Coronavirus crisis? Not for everyone. Rutherfords, small English leather goods manufacturer has increased its sales by 400% in just 12 months. A significant push came from the expansion project led by the UK’s Department for International Commerce. The brand managed to increase the destinations for the products from 4 to 8 countries, with Japan leading the way.
Founded by Alex Hughes in 2012, Rutherfords is located in an incredible space. Its laboratory is located in the Cholmondeley castle, in Cheshire, where it was built in the 12th century. Hughes and its 4 employees manufacture handmade handbags and leather accessories with traditional techniques and using only tools from at least 100 years ago. After 8 years, what was a hobby transformed into profession and Highes’ company is having unexpected success. The company has also recently started conducting courses and classes for recently graduated design and fashion majors.
The brand’s takeoff
A fundamental contribution came from the UK’s Department for International Commerce. Mr. Hughes started collaborating with the office in 2018 and in the last few months, the two entities created a plan to export the company’s goods abroad safely during the Coronavirus pandemic. First step for the leather goods manufacturer was creating a safe work environment were social distancing and protective gear was ensured. Sales didn’t just keep going, but rather increase under this initiative. The brand’s handbags and accessories entered new markets such as the United States and end-markets went from 4 to 8 thanks to e-commerce activities. Yet, the greatest push was given by Japan, a market on which the English government is trying to push its goods, as shown by the trade negotiations initiated last week between the two countries by Liz Truss, Commerce Secretary. The Japanese market accounted for about 70% of Rutherfords’ total revenue.
“Luxury leather goods often become family heirlooms and each piece we create has a sense of devotion – explains Mr. Hughes -. Such sentiment goes beyond business and I hope to pass it on to Rutherfords’ talent-filled team so that the name and profession can stay alive for years to come. Anybody that plans on opening a small business should look to other markets and start collaborating with the Department for International Commerce, as they have helped us simplifying the export of our goods. A trade agreement with Japan – concludes the entrepreneur – will help us reduce the tariff barriers and other and support us in expanding our presence in foreign markets”.