Planes, trains and chaotic cab journeys
As we travel further afield in pursuit of new markets, Fiona Laing charts a female executive’s experience
LI KE many Scottish companies, Kinloch Anderson, the Edinburgh-based Highland dress manufacturer, has looked overseas to grow its business. In fact, it was one of the pioneers, with its exporting achievements recognised in 1979 with a Queen’s Award. It now exports kilts, tartan and accessories all over the world and has shops and licensing agreements for the Kinloch Anderson brand in Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, China and north America.
With Kinloch Anderson’s first stores in China opening in November 2012 in Suzhou and Guangzhou, and four more opening imminently in Xi’an, Changsha, Wuhan and Shenzhen, members of the familyowned company have made trips there. Amanda Noble, Company Secretary and Brand Development Executive, was one of them.
She travelled to Shanghai last year with designer Kirsty Franey to make presentations on Kinloch Anderson’s history, heritage and seasonal trends to the menswear company it has a license agreement with.
“Our travel was easy. In Asia, the hotels are fantastic and the service is impeccable; they can’t do enough for you,” Amanda says.
Travel has always been a big part of Amanda’s life. For Kinloch Anderson, she has been all over the world and she previously worked in corporate travel for American Express.
Experience has taught Amanda
not to accept the offer of being met by hosts at the airport.
“They are not jet-lagged and they want to get straight into it,” she says. “When you get off a long flight, all you really want is to get to your hotel.”
On this trip, Amanda and Kirsty took the opportunity of trying an apartment hotel.
Amanda says: “It was a good setup for two women. We had a twobedroom, fully-serviced apartment and we could go over everything in comfort, without resorting to a hotel lobby.”
Working for a family company makes it difficult for Amanda to judge whether being a woman – or just not being the boss – makes a difference in Asia. But she does admit some cultural differences take time to adjust to.
“The one thing that I think is completely alien for most western business visitors on initial visits is
‘FOR SOMEBODY WHO HAS TRAVELLED SUCH A LOT, IT WAS ACTUALLY QUITE AN INTIMIDATING EXPERIENCE’ – Amanda Noble
the moment of complete silence during meetings,” she says. “It takes a bit of getting used to before you realise that’s just the way it is.”
This relaxed experience was in contrast to Amanda’s first trip to Moscow in 2010. There, she spent a day with Russian commercial agents which included a chaotic drive through pouring rain in a steamed up taxi, windows open and heating on full blast, airportlike security at the agents’ office and resorting to Google Translate when communication failed.
“For somebody who has travelled such a lot, it was actually quite an intimidating experience,” recalls Amanda.
The agents – two lively and friendly women – bring in orders for ladies wear (mainly the type of worsted wool skirts which were once the mainstay of Kinloch Anderson’s business) along with accessories.
“It’s not a huge part of our market, but it’s been keeping our production unit in Edinburgh busy. It has been an unexpected boost,” reveals Amanda.
In Russia, after a day looking at samples, they headed back to the hotel by underground.
“I hadn’t a clue where we were and was running for a train juggling my suitcase of samples and bags of their gifts which included small bottles of vodka.
“Because I had travelled such a lot and was joining up with a trade mission, I probably hadn’t checked up on things as well as I should have done.”
A second visit to Moscow went more smoothly, yet she still senses an atmosphere.
“It is the one city where I felt I was holding on to my bag tightly. I definitely felt an undercurrent of crime. I don’t feel that in Asia, I have always felt quite safe.”
Venturing abroad to expand your business can be a challenge but it pays to be prepared well in advance