Don’t overlook Central and Eastern Europe: 5 tips for trade success

At the British Chambers of Commerce 2015 International Trade Conference, Patrick Ney (Director, British Polish Chamber of Commerce [BPCC] Trade) and Russell Towlson (Deputy Director, BPCC Trade) explained why British businesses shouldn’t overlook the markets of Central and Eastern Europe when trading internationally.


1) Central and Eastern Europe’s (CEE) markets are closer to the UK than you may think

Germany is one of the UK’s biggest trading partners: “British suppliers and manufacturers are deeply integrated into the German industrial machine and enjoy the follow-through benefits of German exports to the rest of the world.”

However, Russell Towlson emphasised that British exporters should think further and not stop at Germany – for example, Poland is just 2 hours away from the UK by flight! Given that there are many flights from major UK airports to CEE countries each day, these markets are exceptionally easy to reach.

2) CEE markets are poised for further growth

In Paddy Ney’s words, “Poland, with the Eastern European region, is the powerhouse of the German economy.” Indeed, things are looking good for CEE markets: after years of austerity, the economies are recovering (in part due to lower fuel costs). Growth reached 2.9 to 3.6 per cent in Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Bulgaria, while the Czech Republic grew 4.3 per cent. According to analyst Will Jackson, “This year is shaping up to be the strongest for the [CEE] region since 2008.”

3) English is widely spoken, so the language barrier is minimal

Towlson noted that especially among the younger generation of businesspeople in CEE countries, English is commonly used as a business language. For example, in CEE markets Slovenia and Lithuania, 92 per cent of the population speaks a foreign language – and in Latvia, 95 per cent of people speak a language other than Latvian!

4) Do your research to ensure your products are positioned correctly in CEE markets

It is imperative to review which markets are right for your product or service, taking into account industry and market trends, competitors, obstacles or risks and whether you are already receiving enquiries or website visits from other countries.

Paddy Ney stated that as a British business looking to export to CEE countries, you need to “make sure you’re ready for the market.” This includes considering what changes need to be made for their products to succeed in CEE markets, such as labeling and language adjustments, but also price flexibility.

5) Commit for the long term for true trade success

Similarly to the speakers at the Middle East session, Paddy Ney emphasised that you can’t expect quick results when trading with CEE markets: “You have to visit and build relationships and use the right sales and marketing techniques.” As a rule of thumb, Ney suggested it takes 3-4 years until you see return on investment when trading with CEE markets – but companies that persist will succeed. He added that UKTI is making further investments to support British businesses trading with Baltic and Balkan countries, which opens yet more avenues for trade and growth.

For more information on trading with CEE and other high-growth markets, visit our Trading with Europe page or call our Business Export Advisor team for personal guidance.


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