Ask the Expert: Adaptation and relationships key to selling to Asia

Diane Simpson of Pudsey-based textile specialists A W Hainsworth & Sons, established in 1783, talks about the world’s fastest snooker cloth and investing in relationships to achieve export success in China.

26 March 2020

To explore the Hong Kong market in more detail, we have spoken to key business people in the region about their plans and experiences.

Here, we catch up with Diane Simpson of Pudsey-based textile specialists A W Hainsworth & Sons, established in 1783, about the world’s fastest snooker cloth and investing in relationships to achieve export success in Hong Kong and China.

Describe your role and current projects

I am a Director sitting on the Executive board of A W Hainsworth & Sons and my role is to direct a team, taking care of the marketing, sales and customer service for the selling brands Toptable snooker cloth, John Atkinsons luxury blankets, and Fabric of a Nation fashion and interior fabrics. 

Why is design important to your business?

Hainsworth likes to innovate, making products that offer style, performance and safety. Design has offered greater opportunity for Hainsworth to build long term relationships. As a result, we have gained a foot hold in many of the niche market segments we supply, by having the right products to satisfy our customers’ needs. 

The world’s fastest snooker cloth

Creativity has allowed us to move the demand by being the first to bring a concept to market.  We introduced the world’s fastest snooker cloth. By understanding how to manage the moisture content in more humid climates through the selection of fibres, the weave construction and finish, we created a cloth that is unchallenged in the market.

We listened to the players around the world and came up with a product they craved.  Through consistent messaging to market working with our partners in China and Hong Kong, we built a good foundation for this revolutionary product. This provides a differentiator for any distributor, table manufacturer, club or association to enhance their position in the market.

Adapting products to the Asian market leads to growth

Our piano fabrics are world leaders.  There are certain component parts that are only made by Hainsworth ensuring that every piano in the market will have a little part of Hainsworth present.  We assisted our European and US partners to move the manufacturing to China and again our knowledge of making fabric combined with moisture management, meant the transition from climates overseas into Asia was possible.

Fashion confidence  

In the last four years we have been supplying high end fashion brands with product specifically for the Chinese consumer.  Our ability to meet the exacting standards required by the authorities, the retailer and the consumer, gives reassurance to the fashion brand and garment manufacturer.

Go niche

Our diversity of supplying multiple niche markets allows us to take on the more difficult products. It takes years of experience to be in a position to know how to make some of our performance fabrics.  

Long term relationships

By collaborating, we can bring something special to the partnership.  We can bring knowledge, advice and project-management support.  There is also to potential to use our brand to elevate and possibly give more weight to the customer’s projects.

Export for success

We have direct sales into China and Hong Kong, mainly for our snooker and piano cloths and a small amount of luxury blankets sold into Hong Kong through one retail partner. Sales into China and Hong Kong are approximately 10 per cent of our turnover, and our total export overseas account for 60 per cent of our turnover.

Patience and respect needed in the Chinese market

I am a patient person. Building anything in the Chinese market requires a lot of hard work to gain trust and a relationship. I understand that just because you are the best in your field elsewhere, that alone is not enough when introducing new concepts to the Chinese or Hong Kong market. 

You need to show a great deal of respect to companies and individuals you work with in order to achieve success in the long term. I recommend providing a plan to establish whether you can all support the project. Patience pays off, it may take time to achieve the end goal.

Focus on the objective

As a lone traveller sometimes, I find I have no difficulty getting around China or Hong Kong as there is great infrastructure. That’s not a concern. My focus is having clear objectives for the visit.

I am usually well received and looked after incredibly well.  Something we can learn from when receiving visitors in the UK.