Financing Your International Growth
Charith Amarasinghe, Associate Director Business Development at Efic, is no stranger to helping Australian fashion businesses get the finance support they need to take on international growth. Working closely with Australian industry leaders he’s seen what it takes to become an international success.
“It’s cliché but it’s true – successful Australian fashion businesses I have worked with have all had a unique offering which sets them apart [on the international stage]. Whether that’s through unique design elements, type of materials or the lifestyle. These businesses tend to identify the specific international markets their brand resonates well with pretty quickly.” says Charith.
But building your international presence or expanding overseas brings its own challenges.
“I’ve found that when Australian labels go international they can be pleasantly surprised by the scale of orders and the sell through rates, especially when supplying leading e-tailers such as Net-a-Porter. Having the resources and finance ready to take on the order is key,” says Charith
Planning ahead is vital. Charith explains this means understanding what amount of funding your business will need to achieve certain sales. Developing a cashflow forecast will help you understand your business position.
With long lead times of up to 180 days a common factor for fashion businesses, you need to make sure you’re prepared. Getting your finances ready before you secure an international order will help put your business in a better position.
“In many cases, I would say that finance comes in second. This can be risky because lack of adequate working capital could result in delays in production and in turn deliveries,” says Charith.
He goes on to say that timely delivery is crucial in the fashion industry. The key point is to do your homework. Knowing how your business will cope with an increased order can be difficult to predict. Engaging with your agent, distributor or the customer early to gauge projections, or doing research on volumes and statistics typical to a certain international stockists or market, can help.
Once you’ve considered your international sales growth plans, knowing your finance options is next.
Negotiate favourable payment terms with the buyers and suppliers
Getting a deposit will help your business pay suppliers, whether that’s through an agent or an end-customer. This options depends on who you are dealing with and the size of the buyer. They may not be open to providing a deposit.
“This is the ideal scenario, however, it’s not the reality in most cases. Especially when you are new to the export game or an up-and-coming label, the customer may not be willing to put a big deposit down up front,” explains Charith.
You may also use the potential increase in volume to negotiate more favourable terms with suppliers.
2. Talk to your bank
If you’re unable to get a deposit from your buyer, then talk to your bank about your growing international orders and the funding your business needs to cover the cost of production prior to payment. Charith explain that banks may struggle to advance funds to small to medium fashion business due to lack of tangible security, unless you are a very large fashion group.
3. Look at alternative sources of finance
“This is the typical entry point for Efic. You’ve got a good business, you’re a proven fashion label domestically, and you’re expanding into international markets but are overwhelmed by your own success or the size of your international orders,” says Charith.
As Australia’s export credit agency, Efic can help work with your bank to guarantee funds or overseas expansion, or provide a direct loan to your business for pre- and/or post-shipment finance or setting up overseas.
Efic works with your business to find a solution that works for you.
“We operate slightly different to banks because we don’t just look at the security a business can provide but focus on the export contracts and the company’s ability to deliver them and get paid. We look at cashflow forecasts, experience of the business’ management team, international customers and any operations risks,” says Charith.
In addition to short-term working capital to finance production of international wholesale orders, Efic can also consider providing finance to established Australian fashion business looking establish a retail or an online presence in an international market.
“If you’re a fashion business that has a strong pipeline of international orders or is thinking of setting up overseas, and you need finance to help your global growth, talk to us. We’re here to help,” says Charith.
Do you want to talk to an Efic expert? Call 1800 093 724 or visit www.efic.gov.au.
Export can represent unlimited opportunities for Australian fashion businesses, the key to success is in being prepared. For more tips on how your fashion business can take on the world, download Efic’s free Taking Australian fashion to the world eBook.