International Stories: Nancy West, Trunki

As a successful brand of “ride-on” luggage for children, Trunki is known for its 100 awards and the 4 million suitcases it has sold. Trunki’s annual sales – now running at about £9.5m – estimated to grow significantly over the next few years with when they push up revenues from France and Germany.

On this week’s International Stories series, we spoke to Nancy West who has been one of the key persons who brought Trunki, the brand and its product, to over 100 countries.

Hi Nancy, could you tell us a little about yourself and your role at Trunki?

My Role as International Sales Navigator at Trunki involves working with our distributors around the world and building those relationships. I try to gather and share information that will help and support sales within their territories. I am always trying to learn as much as I can about the various cultures and markets as I can and share learnings from other’s activities that may have relevance across other countries. Essentially, we are trying to build the Trunki Brand and the success that we have had in the UK across the world and there are lots of potentials there.

Trunki is selling in over 100 countries which is amazing! Can you tell us more about Trunki’s global operation (e.g. top markets, distributors model)?

Obviously the UK is our biggest market where we sell to retail and also direct to the consumer. Our B2C website is the second largest channel in the UK and we have a huge focus on social media and digital marketing to help drive this. We are also developing the same model in Germany. Besides this, we mostly work with distributors.

Which are Trunki’s current and upcoming strategic markets, and why?

If we can build what we have in the UK in Germany, that’s a huge opportunity. The rest of Europe and Russia is also seeing good growth. China is also a strategic market for us but it’s a tough one to crack and so different to anywhere else in terms of the digital landscape. We are really everywhere we need to be, now we just need to penetrate deeper into those markets.

What are the key challenges you (and your team) face when it comes to managing, growing and expanding your international operation and sales?

It’s always going to be a challenge with so many countries to manage and with a relatively small team, you have to be able to identify where it’s worth you spending your time and budget. With international sales, it’s always the unpredictability of it. We try to forecast accurately but there are always things that happen unexpectedly that can never be foreseen like sudden regulation changes, for example. It keeps it interesting though.

From your experience and point of view, why are some markets considered to be more challenging than others for eCommerce to break into and specifically for Trunki?

We get used to our own digital ecosystems and to understand other’s (I mentioned China before) you really have to live it a bit. It’s like learning a whole new language and it takes time if you’re not based there. You need source native insights otherwise you really don’t have a lot of chance of understanding the way consumers buy things and how your brand needs to adapt to fit in.

In your years of working with people in different a culture and growing the sales in different markets, what were your most memorable AHA moments or surprises?

Understanding that payment norms are different online in Germany than here in the UK. Buying online with credit card is not as widely accepted and Germans like to pay after they have received the goods.

Also, learning that maybe a “Ride-on suitcase” is not the right angle for the Japanese market. The other benefits such as kids learning to pack their own things and take responsibility for them could be a more interesting USP for parents in Japan.

Being a British company, what are the impacts Brexit have to your internationally growth and sales and what is your view on that?

We really don’t know yet. Germany is a priority for us and things are taking off there nicely so it would be a set back if there was friction at the border. The concern is the additional administration time and costs that could be possible getting shipments out of the UK. We can also ship from China but this would extend lead times and not be as flexible as we can be from the UK. Saying that, we currently export all over the world, inside and outside the EU and already deal with more complex export regulations.

If you had a magic wand, what would you like to have or change to make your job in managing and growing Trunki internationally a lot easier or more interesting?

To be fluent in all languages! I count my lucky stars that the rest of the world speaks English, to be honest. I always try to learn a bit when I visit countries. Even just one or two words can go a long way.

Finally, if you had to give one piece of advice to someone who is about to take up a role like yours (international growth and expansion), what would it be?

Never assume – always be curious, ask questions and keep an open mind.

Thank you so much for your time, Nancy!

Learn more about Trunki.