International freight forwarder, Wallis Shipping, celebrate their 30th anniversary this year. With monumental changes in the world economy and freight industry, MD Stuart Gregory looks over the last three decades and predicts what’s to come for exporters post-Brexit.
Back in 1987, UK freight forwarders Wallis Shipping started with just a team of five, two telephones and a fax machine. A lot has changed since then, especially with technology, and they have now grown to employing over 30 staff across four sites in the UK, with their head office in Colchester, as well as having staff based on-site at customer’s premises. But 30 years on the main principles have remained the same, with Wallis believing in strong customer service, attention to detail and quick delivery (with both cargo and communication), which has meant they have retained their main customers, many for their 30-year period.
“It sounds like a cliché but we have always put the customer first and forming good client relationships is at the top of everything we do,” said Stuart Gregory, MD, who launched the business with his wife, Sue, the company’s Operations Director, in 1987 (seen in their first Colchester office, image above). “We like the idea of delivering that local service but on a global scale. With some of our longstanding customers we have formed great relationships and these are one of the biggest assets to the business with many referrals coming directly from them. We celebrated with many of them at our 30th anniversary golf day.”
Wallis’ current NPS survey results (net promoter score), which tracks how likely current customers are to refer a business, proves this – with a current score of 94.
Wallis were one of the first freight forwarders in Colchester, and started up at the same time as many logistics companies starting in south Essex, but Wallis saw a gap in the market with the thriving agriculture and manufacturing hub of north Essex and south Suffolk on the freight belt between London and Felixstowe and across to the Midlands.
Changes to shipping lines and new industry regulations, alongside Brexit uncertainty, haven’t made things easy for exporters recently. But like surviving two recessions previously, Wallis have been able to help manufacturers in the region, alongside Suffolk Chamber’s international trade team, secure new exports overseas when the pound has been weak. Stuart believes something similar will happen now post-Brexit.
“Overseas markets will still want our goods and trade deals will happen between the EU to make this a possibility. But aside from the EU, the rest of the world will still want UK products. Our biggest export markets throughout the last 30 years have always been outside of Europe, and the Middle East and Asia are now particularly on the up. British manufacturing is at its best and we produce premium products which the world wants. Not only that, UK exporters have enormous potential to grow in the next few years with the internet, online orders and advanced IT solutions.”
“As well as our larger exporting customers, we like to help SMES who are new to exporting. We’ve seen since the Brexit result a lot of enquiries from those who have begun to receive international orders while products are cheaper with the pound for overseas buyers, and we like to give advice so we can grow with them as their business develops.”
When asked the main changes over the last 30 years, Stuart said: “The world has got smaller, and response time has got to be quicker. People expect things immediately nowadays, with the rise of courier services, and want to track their products. By developing our own shipping software Exportease for our clients, we can now track vessels/containers and processes are now more streamlined than ever, enabling us to handle customer’s changing requirements.”
The most peculiar cargo Wallis have shipped in 30 years:
– Sending tonnes of Easter eggs to Australia
– A James Bond submarine used for filming
– Parts sent to NASA to be sent to the international space station
The best bits for Wallis in the last 30 years:
– Winning tenders for our on-site services for three blue chip companies
– Project shipping – our largest ever shipment a 350 tonne boiler for an oil refinery