Deputy HM Trade Commissioner for China visits Focus SB

  Monday, 15 August 2022 10:49
Deputy HM Trade Commissioner for China visits Focus SB

Hosted by our Head of Strategic Partnerships Duncan Ray, Deputy HM Trade Commissioner for China Tom Duke, Department for International Trade (DIT) enjoyed a private tour of our head office and factory on the outskirts of Hastings, facilitated by Made in Britain.

On behalf of the DIT, representing British interests around the world and with a robust on-the-ground presence in China helping exporters access and build their pipelines, Mr Duke was keen to visit Focus SB in person to learn more about the business and to understand how the company has been managing uncertainty in the China market over the past several years.

Focus SB representatives emphasised the company’s strong community-spirited ethics and green manufacturing credentials to Mr Duke, as well as our ongoing significant investments in people, recycling, solar power and automation over the last five years and management’s industry-leading vision for a sustainable future, actively seeking ways to become ‘greener’ throughout the business, including our recent action to change to a green energy supplier at contract renewal with the supplier’s credentials taking priority over cost.

Given a demonstration of our latest investment in CNC and laser marking technology efficiencies, significantly limiting our use of environmentally damaging consumables and reducing waste, Mr Duke was keen to understand the challenges the current political climate presents and explore what we need from future governments.

Tom Duke said: “DIT supports UK exporters like Focus SB in China to overcome market access barriers, navigate a complex regulatory, economic and strategic context, and make the most of opportunities represented by the UK’s third-largest trade partner.

“Companies like Focus SB, a DIT South East England Export Champion, represent the best of the UK. It is vitally important to ensure they continue to enjoy healthy and sustainable growth in key overseas markets. That’s why I’m visiting today, and why the work of DIT - alongside the Made in Britain industry association and other partners - is so crucial to the future of British manufacturing.”

Duncan Ray commented: “Pandemic restrictions over the last couple of years have slowed business-critical conversations with distributors, customers, suppliers and technical partners in what should have been a boom time in exports for us, particularly to China’s lucrative luxury construction market, key to a financially secure future for us as a UK employer. Focus SB’s China export success story made a real splash in our industry in 2017 and we had to invest heavily in a couple of years of rigorous product testing and inspection processes, so the timing of the pandemic couldn’t have been worse!"

He continued: “In spite of many hurdles to overcome, including the negative impact of a slow down in construction, we’ve had products specified for prestigious projects such as MGM Cotai, Harrods Tea Rooms Shanghai, two VIP lounges in two of Shanghai’s main airports where the quality and sustainable credentials of our products were key to the designers. More recently our products were specified for The Londoner Macao including the award winning suites by David Beckham!"

Mr Ray concluded: “We look forward to a more positive outlook on what is potentially our biggest export market over the coming months, and have welcomed support from the DIT in the UK and on the ground at events in China since the start, including recognition of our company’s achievement with our MD Gary Stevens accepting an invitation to become an Export Champion for the South East UK in 2020. More government support for us as a British manufacturer seeking to grow our exports would be welcome as we struggle with ongoing labour shortages and general supply chain issues impacted by Brexit and the pandemic.

"We see investment in sustainability as an opportunity to not only do the right thing to be greener, but to think about the future for our younger employees and customers, but this needs significant investment and as an SME employing around 60 people, this is challenging. We’re proud to be the first business in our local area to install solar power, but the government needs to do more so that we can access additional funding if we’re to progress our strategy for a sustainable future. SMEs are the lifeblood of the UK and unlike larger manufacturers, who usually qualify for a number of financial incentives and government initiatives based on their size, we are able to be far more agile in our decision making processes and feel overlooked by the government as vital contributors to the British economy. We’d like to see the government relax Brexit rules so we can address labour shortages, keep R&D tax credits going and consider ways it could help us to facilitate re-shoring making it easier for companies like ours to access grants which are aligned to efficiencies.”

Made in Britain CEO John Pearce commented: "Made in Britain is delighted to be working with the DIT to facilitate a series of visits to manufacturing firms that export to China. Companies such as Focus SB - successful British manufacturers that have made their mark at home and overseas - represent the innovation, commitment and agility that are the hallmarks of our manufacturing community."

Visit Made in Britain to discover more about how the organisation supports its members.


Tom Duke was appointed Minister Counsellor for the Department for International Trade in March 2019 and Deputy HM Trade Commissioner to China in 2020. As a member of the senior leadership team of DIT China and Hong Kong, Tom is responsible for trade and investment promotion, trade policy and market access across a range of industry sectors.


DIT represents British business interests around the world, and maintains a robust on-the-ground presence in China to facilitate market access and help exporters build their pipeline.

They operate the Export Support Service – International Markets (ESS-IM) which offers expert advice from industry experts in-market to eligible exporters. Businesses using the service can also connect with a network of vetted service providers who can help with anything from legal advice to digital marketing in the markets of your choice.

Prospective exporters can contact their local International Trade Advisors (ITA’s), locally-based trade veterans who can offer businesses 1-2-1 advice and assistance in exporting to new markets across the globe.

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