Trade Mission Insight – A GREAT Week in Japan

Joining a Trade Mission is a big commitment, you invest time and money to explore a new market which may or may not result in business opportunities. Increasingly British companies are looking to expand closer to home, both within the UK and in Europe. But, whilst it might seem intimidating, more far-flung overseas markets can house incredible opportunities for British business. With the support and guidance of UK Trade and Investment, joining a Trade Mission is the perfect way to explore such opportunities.

So what actually happens on a mission? To understand more we took a look at UKTI Japan’s most recent and largest trade mission of the year, GREAT Week 2014.

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GREAT Weeks is a series of trade missions to promote UK businesses in the Creative, Luxury, Retail and Food & Drink sectors in the world’s fastest growing export markets. Japan is one such market and UKTI Japan and the British Embassy Tokyo hosted 48 British companies at their second ever GREAT Week which kicked off from 27th October 2014.

Monday 27th October
Mission Briefing at the Grand Arc Hanzomon Hotel, Tokyo
Starting the week off with lots of useful information for the delegates, Head of Trade at UKTI Japan, Richard Buttrey, gave a presentation about the Japanese market, touching on socio-political factors affecting the market, unique consumer behaviour, and business etiquette.
Saleem D’Aronville, Creative Director of Aoki Inc Orihica, followed up with a presentation on Fashion and Retail and his personal experience of working in Japan before opening the floor to questions.
Next were digital-focused presentations. Hideyuki Kobayashi, International Business Development Manager at Rakuten, talked about how e-commerce is used in Japan; Kazuya Inoue from Yahoo explained internet search trends and Katsuki Oshiden from Twitter Japan rounded off with a presentation on how Japanese consumers use Social Networking Sites.

Showcase set-up & Opening Ceremony
After lunch delegates set up individual stands in the Ambassador’s Residence at the British Embassy in Tokyo in preparation for the GREAT Week showcase.
In the evening delegates attended the opening ceremony of GREAT Week. Lord Livingston, Minister of State for Trade & Investment, and Peter Ackroyd, President of GREAT Week sponsor the International Wool Textile Organisation, gave speeches before cutting the ribbon alongside British Ambassador to Japan Tim Hitchens and Jo Kato, Director & Executive Vice President of Mitsubishi Estate, along with a little help from Shaun the Sheep.
Tuesday 28th & Wednesday 29th October
Trade Mission Showcase
Delegates manned their stands in the Ambassador’s Residence for a two day business-to-business showcase of British consumer goods. UKTI Japan invited buyers, distributors, agents, specialist press and other potential clients to meet the delegates. Over 550 guests attended the showcase, solidifying existing business relationships and forging exciting new ones.
During the showcase delegates were able to use the marquee on the Ambassador’s lawn for quick business meetings with buyers as well as UKTI Trade Advisers who could give specific market insight and advice. A team of interpreters was on hand throughout the showcase to assist with any communication barriers.
As well as lunch provided on both days and a never-ending supply of tea, delegates and showcase visitors were also treated to an evening drinks reception on Tuesday, where they could chat to potential clients, embassy staff and each other about the showcase and their future plans in Japan.
After packing up on Wednesday evening, UKTI Events staff organised an informal dinner for delegates to toast the success of the showcase. Some delegates also attended a Pecha Kucha presentation evening as part of Tokyo Designers Week which GREAT Week was organised to coincide with.
Thursday 30th & Friday 31st October
Industry Tours, Business Meetings & Farewell Reception
With the showcase over, delegates were free to arrange meetings in the city, do market research or join UKTI organised tours led by our trade advisers.
Food & Drink delegates were taken to a range of emporiums, from basic supermarkets to department store food halls, whilst fashion retailers visited the shopping districts of Harajuku, Omotesando and Ginza. It was a fantastic opportunity to see first-hand how the Japanese high street differs from the British, and how products are displayed and packaged – essential for making a good impression on Japanese consumers of all goods.

GREAT Week wrapped up on Friday evening with a farewell reception at the Maru Cube. Some delegates returned to the UK on Saturday, whilst others stayed a few extra days to explore Japan a little more – but all promised to come back again.

Added Extras

In addition to the Embassy based showcase, UKTI Japan and the UKTI Events team also arranged a fantastic e-commerce opportunity with Japanese online platform Laso. In the run up to, during and after GREAT Week, a total of 42 British brands (a mix of trade mission delegates and other UK-based firms interested in the Japanese market) took the opportunity to sell their products direct to Japanese consumers via the web, taking advantage of Laso’s handy UK warehouse.
And it wasn’t only companies new to the market who got involved. In conjunction with media partner Time Out, our team ran a business-to-consumer campaign with 80 in-market partner brands who promoted the GREAT branding during the event and ran special competitions and promotions. There was also an online campaign via Facebook and Twitter and a double-decker red London bus emblazoned with the campaign slogan “Shopping is GREAT” driving around Tokyo during the week, all of which served to promote British branding and really up the momentum of the campaign and trade mission.
Attending a trade mission is a fantastic way to experience a market for yourself; to meet potential business partners and speak directly to industry experts at UKTI Japan and really pick their brains about how to make exporting to Japan work for your company. Although it is a long way to come, UKTI has a range of means to support delegates on trade missions, such as grants, and as a member of Export to Japan you can benefit from exclusive Member Offers, including discounts on British Airways flights.

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To find out about upcoming Trade Missions to Japan visit our Upcoming Events page or contact an Industry Expert directly about your business prospects in Japan, and be sure to keep an eye on our Current Opportunities which are constantly being updated. For information about the GREAT Week series in Japan and other markets, visit their website.

Article by Charlotte Griffiths, November 2014

Images © Alfie Goodrich