AN INNOVATIVE North Yorkshire book and reading-related business is developing sales in China.

IF Plc exports more than half its turnover to 70 different countries, and has now appointed overseas trade specialist, Chamber International, to help move into China.

The Pickering-based company designs and manufactures a wide range of aids for book lovers and received its first enquiries from China this year after seeking advice from Chamber International’s China specialist, Matthew Grandage, who lived and worked in China for 15 years and speaks fluent Mandarin.

As a result, the company, whose products include book holders, bookmarks, reading glasses, magnifiers, sticky notes and reading lights, asked Chamber International to help develop a comprehensive strategy.

The company visited IF’s premises and used their computers to help mine the complex Chinese Internet and gain greater understanding of the sector, including sales potential, competitors and distributors.

It also brought in international intellectual property (IP) law firm James Love Legal of Harrogate to help with discussions.

Isabelle Nourry, IF’s international sales manager, said: “Chamber International also gave us a lot of advice on best practice when dealing with Chinese companies, including the importance of job titles and friendship building, which was very useful in ensuring that we started correctly.

“We were also informed about operational issues, including how businesses must take care to register their IP in China.

“If someone else, such as a distributor or competitor, beats them to it by applying for that trademark first, a business will find it almost impossible to get back the rights to their own trademark and branding there, as the first to apply will normally win.

“Sales have started well in China. We hope it will become one of our main markets.”

IF, which was founded in 1996 manufactures its products in China and sells through book, gift and department stores, airlines, opticians and visitor attractions worldwide including Europe, US, Singapore, and Turkey. Its most successful product is its ‘Really Tiny Book Light’ which has just been re-launched.

The company has 28 staff, has produced more than 100 original items and sold more than 20m products worldwide with 90 per cent of sales being repeat orders. It began exporting in 1998 and has a £4.5m turnover of which 54 per cent is from overseas sales.

Mr Grandage, said: “With the right IP strategy now in place, IF Plc is ready to expand its business in China safely, and we look forward to supporting the company in this exciting new market.”