Some of the world’s best spinning wheels, weaving looms and other textile craft equipment is manufactured in the heart of South Island town, Ashburton. We chat to James Ashford, Director at Ashford Handicrafts on how they were able to expand to the worldwide stage thanks to global logistics brand, FedEx.
As a brand, how did your journey of going global begin?
My grandfather, Walter Ashford, founded Ashford Handicrafts in 1934 and the company has grown a lot since then. A big part of this has been taking our unique products into new markets.
Critical to our success has been finding a reliable and trustworthy transportation partner that understood our vision and growth ambitions and offered the right services at a competitive price point to help us scale quickly. The internet, technology and seamless logistics has now connected the world in a way my grandfather could only dream about. We are able to supply our global customers almost as if they were local.
Thanks to our expansion into other markets, the business has gone from strength to strength employing over 45 people in New Zealand. Over 90 percent of our business is export with most of our customers based in the United States, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and Europe.
The global landscape is always changing, but how do you keep up with it?
Consistency is key and teeing up with a partner that has access to an ever-expanding global network helps us keep ahead of the curve relative to global market movements and sales trends.
Our best source of inspiration and feedback is our customers. Regularly checking in and hearing what’s happening on the ground. Many of our best products and improvements are a direct result of customer suggestions.
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If you were to look back on your journey, what are some tips you would give to other people who are planning to expand further?
The global marketplace is huge and there are significant opportunities for New Zealand businesses. If your products are working well domestically, why not test the waters offshore?
Find a logistics partner early in the journey to capitalise on trade opportunities as soon as they materialise. A lot of people might think expanding globally is daunting, but a lot of it is taken care of if you work with the right logistics partner.
How does working with a company like FedEx help in the grand scheme of growth?
I used to live in the US and knew how well FedEx worked over there. Our customers in the US and Australia are used to domestic FedEx shipments so they have confidence in purchasing from us as they know the order will arrive quickly and seamlessly.
FedEx has a global footprint that is undeniable with strong Trans-Tasman and worldwide connections.
Since working with FedEx, our deliveries have been fast and efficient to both of our key markets, we were easily able to hook up to the FedEx API (Application Programming Interface) and really haven’t looked back since.
Where do you see your company in the next five years?
We still see more opportunities for international growth and would like to be in every yarn store in the world. With FedEx as our logistics solutions provider and its continuous service enhancements, we are confident that we will be able to handle increasing demand and maintain a seamless supply chain experience for our customers.