Newtownards Consultancy Strikes the Right Chord

International Business Centre (IBC), the Newtownards-based musical instruments marketing consultancy, has won a contract expected to be worth around £300,000 over the next 12 months with help from Invest Northern Ireland.

IBC used Invest NI trade missions to China to pinpoint and sign up a company to manufacture a range of acoustic guitars it has designed for a major UK client. IBC’s Director Iain Wilson has designed an initial range of six guitars in association with the UK client, Steve Fairclough, an established musician, who is a partner in a distribution company run by an industry leader, Tony Owens, called Go To Guitars Ltd.

The guitars are being made by a Guangdong company that specialises in musical instruments. Go To will distribute the guitars, which have been designed specifically for beginners and intermediate players, under the “Fairclough” brand through an extensive UK network.

Mr Wilson, commenting on the contract – one of the biggest-ever secured by the company – said: “The order is the direct result of trips made by me and supported by Invest NI during 2005/6 to China. Finding the right manufacturer for the project involved extensive market research, frequent visits and lengthy negotiations.

“Building business relationships and understanding the requirements in terms of quality and delivery took time. I just couldn’t have afforded to devote as much time and other resources without the practical support provided by Invest NI. I’ve used trade missions over the years on projects for other clients and find them an extremely effective way of doing business, particularly in distant markets such as China.

“We are working on another six models and will also be exploring opportunities to sell the complete range of guitars outside the United Kingdom. Interest in the guitars, which sell for between £175 to £395, is extremely encouraging,” he added.

Alan Hingston, Invest NI’s Trade Director, said: “IBC is harnessing low cost manufacturing in China with its established expertise in guitar design, marketing, technical support and customer relationship management to strengthen its overall competitiveness in what is an intensely

“Our Passport to Export programmes enable Northern Ireland companies to identify suitable partners to help them bring new product ideas to market faster and cost-effectively.”

IBC was formed by Mr Wilson as an international sales, marketing and translation company. It specialises in musical instrument products and helps manufacturers carry out detailed research in specific markets.  In addition, IBC develops marketing plans and advises manufacturers on how to match their skills base with the correct distributors, agents, stores, artists, press and public.

IBC has been responsible for worldwide sales for many companies, including Fishman, Breedlove, G7th and Techra, as well as Avalon and Lowden in Northern Ireland - managing worldwide distributors, agents and liaising with retail stores.

The company has expertise in Europe, the US and Asia Pacific. As well as its headquarters in Newtownards, IBC has offices in Italy and associates in China.