HSBC UK funds Bournemouth exporting business amid COVID-19 pandemic

A Christchurch company which has designed, engineered and tested a state-of-the-art electric fireplace has secured a six-figure finance package from HSBC UK to help it export the product into international markets for the first time.

British Fires, which belongs to the Focal Point Fires group, has used the funding to support cash flow and make critical stock investments amid the coronavirus crisis, allowing the business to progress a critical five-year distributor deal for the North American and Canadian markets.

British Fires has spent the last three years developing its unique New Forest Electric Fire; a modern take on the traditional electric fireplace, which it currently sells at selected distributors across the UK.

The funding, secured as part of the government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), has enabled the business to finalise the development of the new product and export the stock to both North America and Canada ahead of the winter season.

Carl Richards, Chairman of British Fires, said: “Just before Covid took hold, our New Forest Electric Fire had just won a significant industry award at the New Orleans expo, presenting us with many opportunities to partner with well-connected distributors.

“Over recent years, we’ve seen a dramatic shift away from solid fuel appliances to electric fires as an alternative source of heat, so we knew we had to move fast to get the product finalised and shipped ahead of the crucial winter months but were nervous about making a big investment at such an uncertain time. HSBC UK’s support, led by our relationship director Richard Hoyle, came at just the right moment and has been instrumental in getting our chosen distributor deal over the line.”

Gareth Evans, Area Director for Hampshire and Dorset at HSBC UK, added: “We knew British Fires had a small window of opportunity to get its new product out into the international market before its competitors, so we moved quickly to put a funding facility in place to make its 2020 ambition a reality. The CBILS loan means the initial five containers will soon be on their way to North America in time for critical pre-winter sales. This has been a fantastic exporting success story in some of the toughest global market conditions we’ve known; we’re delighted to have been involved.”

The New Forest Electric Fire has patented flame technology and is certified and tested for the US market. Its US partner, Miles Industries Vancouver, owns the Valor brand name and sells into 800 retailers across Canada and North America. British Fires will now continue discussions with other distributors as it begins its growth journey across Europe and the rest of the world.