The Centre's head, Prof Ewa Bulska, welcomed participants, explaining its role as an R&D centre, equipped with labs, set up to work with and for private-sector companies looking to innovate.
Michael Dembinski, the BPCC's chief advisor, showed how Polish cosmetics are selling well in the UK, with Poland being the UK's fifth-largest import source after France, USA, Germany and China. Polish exports of skin-care products, including creams, are strongest. In this category, Poland is the fourth-largest import source, selling £54.5m worth of product last year. However, in other categories, such as lipsticks and eye make-up, sales of Polish products have slightly fallen back since 2013.
Special guest expert speaker, Krystyna Rzemieniecka, who has 30 years of experience of marketing in the cosmetics sector in the UK working with such brands as Elizabeth Arden, Max Factor, Coty, Rimmel, Mary Quant and Body Shop in London, talked in detail about the UK market. She pointed to the key trends – the relative impoverishment of the youngest demographic group, which is less well-off today than it was in the past, while the oldest group, women aged 50-plus, are working longer, earning more, inheriting more, and more interested in looking good than ever before. This is the most lucrative market for anti-aging skin creams, she said. However, substantiated claims and client testimonials are crucial for sales. The internet has created an entirely new route to market, with bloggers and consumer forums sharing their opinions about products online, while e-commerce offers small manufacturers a way to sell directly to clients, bypassing the chain stores.
Izabela Leśniak from Intertek outlined the main certificates required by the UK market – what was essential, and what is good to have. Toxicology, reaction between product and packaging, fair trade, organic products, animal testing and leaflet content were all covered by Ms. Leśniak. Intertek, which has a laboratory in Poland, is able to certify products for all UK requirements, she said.
The rapid growth of e-commerce in the UK (which is the world's number one market in terms of value of product purchased per online client) means that Polish producers should consider this channel for entering the UK market. Krzysztof Łukoszyk from Raben Group explained how the logistics sector is gearing up for e-commerce, learning how to handle the smallest order and work with clients on returns.
After a networking coffee break, Jakub Makurat from Ebury Polska talked about the currency risks that exist in doing business between the UK and Poland. He showed the slide in value of sterling after the EU referendum, and explained what exporters should be doing to protect themselves against further appreciation of the zloty against the pound. He offered Ebury's foreign exchange forecast for the coming year, which suggests that in the short term at least, the pound will regain some of the value it has lost against the dollar, euro and zloty.
Differences in the legal systems in the UK and Poland were explained by Sebastian Szulkowski of Adams Law, a London firm of solicitors. These differences have a big impact on doing business between the two countries, in particular when drawing up contracts with new clients. He also talked about the main types of fraud to watch out for when exporting to the UK, and how Polish companies can protect themselves against such practices.
David Kennedy from translation company Lacrosse, stressed the importance of getting the language right for the UK market – indeed for any export market. After highlighting the unintentional comedy that arises from poor translation (płatki owsiane translated on product packaging as 'mountainous oat flakes'), he stressed that what is usually needed is not so much a word-for-word translation from Polish into English as trans-creation. He gave as an example the Polish version of the classic children's book by Dr Seuss, The Cat In The Hat Came Back, which is not Powrót kota w czapce, but the far more inspired Kot Prot wraca do psot. This, said Mr Kennedy, is the approach to take when preparing marketing materials for an export market.
Marta Smolarek, the BPCC's export manager, set out how the chamber can help Polish companies enter the UK market – firstly by identifying the market need and the existing products on the market, their price points and target customers, and then by finding suitable agents, distributors, wholesalers or retailers for the Polish exporter.
After a lively panel discussion focused on Polish brands and how they are perceived in the UK, whether Polish manufactures should create new brands for the UK market or soldier on under a name that might be difficult to pronounce, there were two presentations from the provincial marshal's offices of Mazowieckie and Łódzkie, explaining all the EU funded programmes in which small- and medium-sized cosmetics manufacturers from the two provinces could take part in. There is a lot of funding available, grants and loans, for R&D, trade-fair participation, scaling-up production and export support.
After lunch, there was time for one-to-one meetings between the cosmetics companies and the expert speakers. This part of the programme proved to be very successful, with nearly three hours of talks taking place before the end of the afternoon.A total of 29 cosmetics companies took part, some with excellent, innovative products that are certain to sell well in the UK the right marketing. The marshal's office was delighted with the event, the high level of expert knowledge imparted by the speakers and the turn-out from cosmetics firms across the region, and has said that it would like to partner with the BPCC in a food-sector event in 2017.