Owner of Red Herring Games in her shop

Export mystery solved for Red Herring Games

In less than two years, murder mystery company Red Herring Games has transformed their business. Find out how just one Grimsby woman found international success with global giant Amazon.

The tiny shop front of Red Herring Games is as deceiving as the prime suspects of their murder mysteries. It’s only inside that you truly get a sense of the huge success that has struck this home-grown Grimsby company. Jo Smedley, the owner; her assistant, and Floss the dog are surrounded by numerous cardboard boxes being packed for America.

“It’s gone mental!” laughs Jo, which is a reasonable summary of the company’s growth in just two years.

Red Herring Games began ten years ago, in the spare room of Jo’s family home and now she’s preparing 500 boxsets for the next shipment to Amazon’s warehouse in Illinois.

“I really don’t think we’d be where we are now without our International Trade Adviser’s help.”

Jo Smedley, Managing Director

What started out as a handful of games for friends, has steadily grown into a range of over 146 for fans across the world.

When Jo approached the Department for International Trade (DIT), she already had her own website, and was submitting small orders through Amazon, but for the next stage of her exporting journey, she needed expert help.

She contacted DIT four years ago and began working closely with International Trade Adviser (ITA), Duncan Slater.

“We had support from Duncan, looking at exporting, how to get things over there, how to expand the business in different ways.”

With DIT’s advice and support, Jo had the knowledge and confidence to send her entire catalogue of titles out to the US.

The results came rapidly. “Sales of our products have increased astronomically. Products that we sell five to seven of in the UK, over there, they’re selling 480.”

“We do about 50% export. This year we’re going to hit about 75% just with Amazon.”

By exporting, Jo and Red Herring Games could reach markets they’d never dreamed of. In 2017, Amazon US predicted orders totalling over £200,000 for the next five years, meaning Jo has a lot of stock to prepare.

The further across the world Jo reaches, the more she’s had to consider when it comes to making her business global-friendly. While her ITA is only ever just a phone call away, DIT offers additional support for more specialist areas of business. Jo was put in touch with DIT’s e-Commerce team, who showed her the importance of customising her international websites to suit the cultural differences of her export market.

Even the content for the US market required changes. “Just a few word changes can make a massive difference,” says Jo.

“We’ve seen a big change with sales and who’s buying from us since we had all that work done … It’s that added value stuff that you wouldn’t find out by yourself very easily.”

While America remains Red Herring Games’ biggest and most lucrative country of export, another market is now on Jo’s radar, thanks to the ongoing advice and support of DIT.

In March 2017, Jo joined Duncan and 27 other businesses on a Northern Powerhouse trade mission to the Netherlands, where she discovered a great opportunity to export. Red Herring Games found there was a lack of competition in the Netherlands events market, which pleasantly surprised Jo. “They have nothing, not one company doing what we do,” she explains.

Prior to attending the trade mission, Jo had no plans to export to the Netherlands and admits she would never have considered it without the help of DIT. While there, Jo had the opportunity to meet potential clients, discover export opportunities, and receive valuable advice.

Having DIT’s ongoing support has given Jo the knowledge she needed to move her business forward.

“Knowing that back up is there has been really good and just having that confidence to go for it.”

With a turnover of 75% on Amazon alone, it looks like she’ll soon be outgrowing her tiny Grimsby shop. Jo is now looking at setting up offices in both Australia and America. “I always thought we were too small, but now we’re not.”

But how does it feel, to go from making a handful of games for friends, to exporting internationally to commercial giants like Amazon? Much like the thrilling crime games she exports, Jo can sum it up perfectly. “It’s scary, but a good scary.”