Mary Homer, chief executive of The White Company – which featured on International Track 200 in 2015 and 2016 – spoke about ecommerce and overseas expansion at our International Track 200 alumni roundtable and networking lunch for female founders and senior directors in London, co-hosted by HSBC UK and Fast Track’s associate director Lucy Stock
The White Company chief executive shares her tips for international expansion
Exporting internationally is about “breaking the boxes”, imagining your brand in a place it wouldn’t have been before, Mary Homer said at our alumni roundtable and networking lunch for female founders and senior directors at the Spring Salon in London, supported by HSBC UK.
Mary talked about how she had cut her teeth at Topshop, where she started as a merchandising assistant and worked her way up to MD, and how her world changed when the internet took hold and ecommerce became a possibility.
She offered some principles for anyone going into the international marketplace – “My overriding advice, and what I’ve learned along the way, is always to take a customer first approach. It doesn’t matter which business you’re in, be where the customer is. That’s how you have to attack the market.” Mary shared her key tips for our camera.
For The White Company, expansion has taken a multi-channel approach, based on the mantra that “one size doesn’t always fit all.” Mary noted that expansion can be very expensive if you don’t “find the right levers.” It can be helpful to deal with third parties in a target market, she said – brands who already have a market presence and who might be willing to form a partnership so both can reach new audiences.
However, Mary warned that this can also be dangerous unless you select the right partner. “This sounds very obvious, but the wrong partner won’t look after either your brand or their own business,” she said.
In good company
Mary was joined by female founders and senior directors of 14 International Track 200 alumni companies – four of whom (the7stars, VSI Group, White Light and Xexec) feature on this year’s league table, published this weekend in The Sunday Times. Other star companies represented included Boden, Hobbs and Pottermore.
During the roundtable, guests agreed that the British high street is not dying, but is definitely changing, and that where retailers have failed, it has often been because they failed to follow a “customer first” mantra like the one Mary described.
A word from our sponsor
Guests enjoyed lunch and networking drinks with representatives from HSBC UK and were welcomed by Jane Galvin, Head of Corporate Banking UK (pictured above), who urged guests to take the time to reflect on the sheer scale of the companies they are running, which represent a significant contribution to the UK economy.
She noted that the current uncertain trading conditions would never have been predicted, even four years ago, but however Brexit transpires, there were still massive opportunities overseas. “I think we can do so much to help businesses expand internationally,” she said, encouraging those around the table to share their stories and grow their exports.
Find out more about our alumni dinners and opportunities for sponsors on our sponsorship page.
For more information about the International Track 200 league table and events programme, see: https://www.fasttrack.co.uk/league-tables/international-track-200/