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Selling online grows international sales for Cheeky Chompers

Our support helped Scottish baby brand Cheeky Chompers export worldwide and expand into 49 countries. From its beginnings in Midlothian, to Asia and beyond, discover how we helped the business reach new customers and trade with ease in a changing worldwide market.

Last updated 18 May 2022 | 6 minute read

 

From baby steps to big business

Amy Livingstone and Julie Wilson, two ‘mumpreneurs’ from Midlothian, have taken their baby business to new heights, despite the unforeseen obstacles of the last two years.  

The pair invented and designed the world’s first neckerchew – a chewable dribble bib – in 2013, when their own children were babies. Julie explains, ‘We were constantly picking up and sterilising dropped teethers and thought, ‘why doesn’t someone invent a teether that stays attached to the baby?’. Since then, Cheeky Chompers has grown from a small enterprise into an internationally known and loved brand. 

Initially rejected by Dragon’s Den despite impressing with the business’ strong branding and innovative parent-tested designs, our teams have guided the business from day one, through the teething stages to present day expansion.  

In the first five years, the business grew quickly, expanding into 35 different marketplaces with nine different products. Now, the brand has expanded into 49 countries and are stocked in more than 1500 stores worldwide and is forecast to achieve a turnover of around £1.8 million by 2023.

Julie Wilson and Amy Livingstone, founders of Cheeky Chompers

Selling online in a new landscape  

However, like most businesses, lockdown forced the Cheeky Chompers team to rethink how they operated. It made it necessary to move from a traditional store-based way of selling to taking a more robust online tactic. As Carl Gardiner, our trade digital specialist explains,

“As we adapt to the new changing business landscape, ecommerce has become a ‘must have’ for companies looking not just to survive but thrive.” 

The benefits of selling online are well established. It can help businesses reach a wider range of customers in target markets both internationally and domestically. It also provides people with the tools to convert interest in a product or service into real sales.

Forging closer customer connections 

For Julie and Amy, the pandemic brought about an opportunity to connect to customers on a deeper level.

“In March 2020, 60% of our business was international exports and a lot of our business in the UK was through retailers — only 10% of it was D2C (direct-to-customer),” explains Julie, “so we had to think about where growth was going to come from and how we could get closer to our customers online.” 

“Luckily, we had just recruited a new ecommerce manager to grow the D2C side of our business, but the pandemic meant we had to fast track that. People weren’t going out, they didn’t have the products in their hands, so we used beautiful digital assets, video content and social media to really engage with parents and gift buyers online.”  

Indeed, the impact of Covid-19 has made people realise Scotland needs a different approach to ensure every business can take on new challenges.

Part of our mission is to spread our expertise across the economy to nurture and grow new and existing businesses. Increasingly, an understanding of the digital world of business ensures a company’s longevity. International ecommerce is essential to the success of all retailers.  

Cheeky Chompers founders, Amy Livingstone and Julie Wilson, showing the product.

Amy and Julie with a selection of neckerchews

Trading across new borders 

Of course, ecommerce is just the first step. Once you’ve sold your product, you need to deliver. Since Brexit, many new and existing traders have found changes to processes hard to navigate, which is where we come in. 

Exporting can be daunting, but many Scottish companies do it, and do it well. We have a range of experts and resources that can help businesses get started. One of the first things we encourage companies to do is to carry out an assessment of the level of demand and opportunity in the intended market. Information such as consumer trends and tastes will help you assess the level of demand. Companies should then look at similar products available in the market along with what the consumers are willing to pay.  

For Cheeky Chompers, who had been exporting internationally for years, Brexit meant establishing a firmer footing overseas. Julie explains that the logistics of their trading processes changed drastically after Britain left the EU:

“Overnight, we lost all of our Amazon business in Europe, and a lot of our European business, because we could not get stock into the EU. We managed to get round these issues by opening a fulfilment house in Germany, so products go there direct from the factories, ready for distribution across Europe.” 

“In the face of adversity, you have to dig deep, and you learn by doing that,” says Julie. “We have created new opportunities and put things in place that will really help us grow in scale.” 

Having emerged stronger, more efficient and more resilient thanks to the company’s own strategic responses to these challenges, Cheeky Chompers’ Amazon business has grown 500% in the last two years. The pair also managed to maintain online sales with premium retailers like John Lewis, Mamas & Papas and JoJo Maman Bébé, despite many of these stores being closed for months in 2020. 

Exporting for every business  

Many Scottish SMEs of all sizes export. This is often because they don’t have a market domestically for their products or services. But it’s important to realise that even if you have a market in the UK, expansion overseas should be more than a pipedream. Granted, resources are required to become successful in trading internationally, but that shouldn’t hold back smaller companies. 

By using our export services, businesses can learn the skills and knowledge to become more confident exporters and remove the myth that only large companies are capable of exporting. 

Cheeky Chompers is a great example of something that began as a simple, but great, idea and has experienced an international growth spurt. From the drawing-board stages in Midlothian to plans to launch in the USA very soon, we’re proud to have played an important role in the journey so far.

Want to start trading overseas?

Our specialists are on hand to answer your questions about exporting and ecommerce.