GUILFORD MILLS TELLS HOW IT’S DONE IT

NEW YORK — A textile firm that has been active in international business is Guilford Mills.
Gerard Reidy, Guilford’s vice president and director of marketing, told the WWD Impact Seminar of the strategy his company used in developing that business.
His company, he said, “went worldwide talking to people,” learned their languages and got involved in their culture.
“It is extremely important when you go outside the confines of this country to get to know who you are going to see, to know their mores,” he said. “You have to be global, but you have to be local.
“One thing I recommend: Go to their showrooms and then invite them to come to you. Be proud of what you have and what you do, whatever service or product it is. Invite them to come see you; they will come.”
He further advised shopping the targeted country.
“Find out what they are selling, and you will find that right now in the world the appetite for American manufacturers is wide open,” he said.
Another panelist, David Goldberg, a principal in the Marketing Management Group consulting firm, noted that while well-known apparel companies such as Levi’s and Nike have been very successful selling abroad, “the problem is that most fashion companies are unwilling to take the steps necessary to gain access to foreign markets.”
He advised that if a company is going to export, it should be treated in the same manner as tapping a new market in the U.S.
“That means learning about the market and selecting a distribution method,” he said.
Five distribution options are available, he said. They include a joint venture; licensing, which limits your income to royalties; direct entry, which is a major commitment of overhead and startup costs; using a distributor, but the distributor’s mark-on destroys pricing structure of your product and isolates you from your customer, and, finally, through reliable sales agents.
“When you focus on overseas markets, you have to select targets. It’s a big world out there. You have to focus; you should limit your initial thrust to two or three markets,” Goldberg said.
On the financing side, he said, “You have got to determine how you are going to manage credit risk, currency risks and legal and tax compliance issues, to prepare a detailed entry plan and establish proper controls.”
Further, he advised, “You have to manage your expectations. Don’t expect instant gratification — seek all the help you can get from people that are available to assist you.”

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