It quickly became apparent that the New Zealand market was not large enough to sustain considerable investment in product development and secondly, that their products have done so well that they deserved wider exposure.
Export research came down to two options. Find educational distributors in other countries option Smart Kids Ltd. an Auckland company that makes educational games and resources to read and understand maths, has won a Trade New Zealand Export Award for its success in international markets in 2003.
Established eight years ago in the family home basement, Smart Kids is led by husband and wife team, joint chief executives David and Sun Milne and their sons Duncan and Frase.
Sun Milne, an ex-teacher says from 30 products when it started the company now produces more than 200 products catering for student activities grammar concepts and numeric.
She says the international appeal of Smart Kids’ products was highlighted recently when company’s SMART PHONICS was listed amongst the top five products out of almost 100 in the education trade show in the United Kingdom.
The key requirements for every new Smart Kids product is that it stimulates student’s minds the classroom teaches them a specific concept easily, enjoyable and permanently and enables problems solving.
Smart Kids started selling its educational games and resources to New Zealand schools in 1995, drawing an immediate and string response.
The first option was less risky and easy to manage but it meant that Smart Kids products were lost in a wide range of materials. So they went for the second option and over the next few years established offices in Australia, UK and Canada.
This has successfully branded Smart Kids as a leading supplier of educational resources in these countries.
The Smart Kids product catalogue is now sent regularly to teachers in more than 50,000 schools across the UK, Ireland, Canada and Australia.
They also sell to schools in the US. In that market they elected to work through a distributor as they didn’t had the financial resources to set up an operation that could cover almost 70,000 schools and compete with every established educational publisher.
Annual exports now exceed $2.2 million and account or more than 90% of turnover. In order to grow the business surplus profits are reinvested back into product development, infrastructure – the company recently moved its Auckland operation into new 20,000 square feet premises in Ellerslie.
The Smart kids brand is now well established internationally with the company enjoying many competitive advantages, including its New Zealand origin.
New Zealand education is highly regarded overseas and they find that international teachers to get hold of educational products made in this country.
The market leaders in the era of globalization will have to exploit this heterogeneity to their advantage. They have to bring new products to market very quickly, adapt them swiftly, and also create many variations on a basic theme. They will have to take more risks and tolerate a bit more failure. Goodbaby, China’s largest producer of children’s goods develops new products at the astonishing rate of one every twelve hours. Some of these are not successful but many are. Goodbaby is the global leader in their industry and is increasing its market share every year.
Most marketing spending has an impact basis that is, how much you are spending relative to your competition. So, if the competition is buying less advertising, the merchants who spend more get a greater share of exposure. Companies with enough cash to boost spending on marketing can use a bad time as a period in which to focus on gaining more market share.