Retail Summit 2019 Graphic

East of England retail companies head to Dubai for The Retail Summit

On 13th February a delegation of 9 East of England retail companies will be attending The Retail Summit 2019 in United Arab Emirates to showcase their innovative British products.

The Retail Summit takes place in Dubai, and brings together over 800 senior executives from the food & drink, fashion, homeware and beauty sectors. Throughout the 2 day event delegates will have the opportunity to find out about the global retail landscape and exhibit their business to industry experts from across the retail ecosystem.

The Summit has also attracted an impressive variety of international market leaders to speak at the event, including Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson, New Balance’s Vice President of Global Marketing Chris Davis and Julie Hamilton, Chief Customer and Commercial Leadership Officer from Coca Cola.

The initiative was organised by Exemplas Trade Services Ltd (ETSL), who are the delivery partner for the Department for International Trade (DIT) in the East of England. In collaboration with The Retail Summit, ETSL has invited the following companies from the region to attend: Amara Living, Down to Science, iCandy, italianhomewares.com, Onoto, The PÜRE Collection, The Cambridge Satchel Company, Tia Dorraine and Tropika UK.


“The Retail Summit will be attended by CEO’s from major distributors and franchise retailers, not just from the Middle East but worldwide, so we saw this as a great opportunity for our East of England clients”


Leading the initiative is ETSL Export Growth Adviser Jose Richart, who specialises in the Food & Drink and Retail sectors: “The Retail Summit will be attended by CEO’s from major distributors and franchise retailers, not just from the Middle East but worldwide, so we saw this as a great opportunity for our East of England clients. We have looked to add value to the mission by organising a buyer reception the evening before the event, where we have invited a number of distributors and buyers from the Middle East.”

Sandra Duke, Head of Wholesale at The Cambridge Satchel Company believes that having face to face conversations at events like The Retail Summit are integral when looking to expand the business into new markets. “We’re really looking forward to talking with retailers from Middle Eastern countries, showing them our products and giving them an opportunity to touch and feel our brand. This is much more effective for us than just sending an email, and is something that our founder Julie Dean really believes in.”


“In the past we have had a small amount of success in the Middle East, but nothing that has been cemented, so we were keen to join the Retail Summit to try and develop Cambridge Satchel’s presence in these markets,”


Woman holding The Cambridge Satchel Company bag in the street
The Cambridge Satchel Company was founded by Julie Dean and her mother in 2006.

The Cambridge Satchel Company began in 2008 when Julie and her mother Freda were sat at their kitchen table, with a budget of £600 and one goal – to send Julie’s children to a better school. Their idea was to make satchels inspired by traditional British, leather schoolbags from years gone by. The bags were an instant hit, appearing on the front cover of Vogue and at New York Fashion week, which resulted in a dramatic increase in sales.

This success allowed Julie to begin investing in the business to reach international audiences and with the support of the Department for International Trade the company now sell their products to customers across the globe, including across the USA and Asia. Julie is also a guest speaker at the Summit, focusing on Gender Diversity in Retail: Breaking the Glass Ceiling.

“In the past we have had a small amount of success in the Middle East, but nothing that has been cemented, so we were keen to join the Retail Summit to try and develop Cambridge Satchel’s presence in these markets,” said Sandra. “We know that there is an appetite for our British made products, as we regularly sell to the Middle East via our ecommerce sites, so we would love to try and strengthen our presence there by getting our products within stores.”

Norwich-based pen company Onoto are hoping their attendance at The Retail Summit will secure private or corporate commissions within the Middle East. The company produce a variety of luxury pens, including pens made entirely of sterling silver and gold, worth up to £5000. They also offer more affordable acrylic pens, or can be commissioned to produce bespoke pens with precious metals and stones.


“Currently there is a big push from pen companies to target pen collectors, but we’re looking to explore the corporate gifting market. In the Middle East we know there is a culture of giving high value corporate gifts, so we believe there is a really big opportunity to capitalise on this.”


Two Onoto fountain pens resting against books
Onoto hope to tap into the corporate gift industry in the Middle East

“Historically we have had commissions from the Middle East, but only for individual customers and not on a large scale” said Feng Li, Director of Onoto. “We have tried to export to the Middle Eastern markets before, however at that time we were not best placed to fulfil any sustainable business. When we heard about The Retail Summit we felt that this event that was really suited to our brand and we’re keen to try again, attending as part of the DIT East of England delegation.”

“Currently there is a big push from pen companies to target pen collectors, but we’re looking to explore the corporate gifting market. In the Middle East we know there is a culture of giving high value corporate gifts, so we believe there is a really big opportunity to capitalise on this.”

As Jose explains, ETSL offers a range of support to East of England businesses looking to export including practical advice, events, and introductions to valuable business contacts overseas: “Although I work with retail and food and drink companies, I am part of a larger adviser team who have experience across all industries and sectors and a ready to help businesses grow internationally. Wherever you are on your export journey, contact ETSL today to find out how we can support you.”

Exemplas Trade Services Ltd (ETSL) has delivered the contract for the Department for International Trade (formerly UK Trade and Investment) in the East of England for almost a decade.

For more information on how we can support your business in exporting overseas, get in touch.