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Feel the fear and do it anyway: How retailers can operate at home AND away


At Laybuy, we’re proud to have been on a real journey since we first set up shop in 2017. By this I don’t just mean a metaphorical journey – but very much a physical one as well. Having launched two years ago in my home country of New Zealand, we are proud to have flown the nest to launch subsequently in Australia, and most recently in the UK. And the plan is definitely not for our globe-trotting to end here.

We are proud of our international ambition, but we are definitely not alone in our aspirations. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of UK retailers would like their businesses to further expand internationally. This I know due to research we recently conducted at Laybuy, working with research partner, Sapio Research, to conduct interviews with 206 senior managers in the UK retail sector to understand their attitudes to setting up shop overseas.

Despite the fact that the overwhelming majority of UK businesses have designs on expanding abroad, well over half (57%) expressed a belief that overseas expansion is fraught with risk. You’d have to be living under a rock to not realise that a lot of these fears are very likely related to the current political uncertainty regarding the UK’s future trading relationship with the EU and other countries. Yet our research revealed that this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the concerns harboured by UK retailers when faced with the prospect of selling goods in new territories.

Almost two-thirds of UK retailers (62%), for example, believe that they don’t have the local banking and currency expertise required to expand overseas. Other worries holding these businesses back from international growth include lengthy international supply chains, more complex financial bureaucracy, cross-border regulatory challenges and the cost of currency conversions.

Now don’t get me wrong – these are all very real challenges that we were worried about looking in the eye when we began to talk about expanding Laybuy outside of our native New Zealand. However, in the end, the significant opportunity to grow Laybuy by expanding it internationally led us to the viewpoint that we simply had to find ways to jump those hurdles – and with our recently announced collaboration with Footasylum announced in the UK and other partnerships in the pipeline – boy, was it worth it!

Indeed, our research found that most retailers (79%) recognise the significant opportunities for growth offered by international expansion. So just how do you meet the challenges and emerge victorious?

There’s a lot of complex answers to that question, but from my own experience there’s one catch all that has the potential to be the saviour of businesses in the throes of wanderlust. It turns out that technology partners are a retailer’s best friend when it comes to global expansion. The right tech solution can now do much of the legwork, meaning that challenges like international banking or managing currency exchange rates, for example, no longer need to be a reason to suppress global aspirations.

It is in part due to the expertise of our technology partners, for example, that Laybuy was able to become the first payments company in the world to offer a buy now, pay later solution in multiple markets. Having successfully launched an online payment platform for international customers based in Australasia and the UK, location is no obstacle either for consumers or merchants who use Laybuy. Merchants have the ability to offer Laybuy to any customer who has been credit checked via the Laybuy sign up process, without the need to set up a bank account or transact in the customer’s currency of origin. For example, this enables retailers in the UK to sell into Australasia, with Laybuy taking total ownership of the currency conversion. Great for merchants, great for consumers and great for us!

The opportunities that international expansion provide definitely outweigh the associated fears, and my advice to business leaders is to feel that fear and do it anyway! Embrace the technology available to make the dream a reality, and reap the rewards for your efforts. By moving into new markets you open your business up to new customers, new learnings and new achievements. Just don’t feel you have to go it alone in the process.

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Gary Rohloff