LONDON: UK brands are failing to capitalise on an upturn in confidence and to expand their presence in fast-growing overseas markets, leading figures have warned.

"Goods exporters must stop treading water and manoeuvre into the fast lanes towards growth, mirroring the success of our most buoyant sectors, which have benefited from having very targeted export strategies," Mark Gregory, chief economist at consultants EY, told Marketing Week.

He argued that this did not necessarily mean looking to the BRIC countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. "Some real sweet spots of demand for UK products are emerging for automotive to Thailand and China, and engineering to Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and Poland," said Gregory.

Several well-known brands are planning expansion into new markets, including the Superdry clothing brand and the John Lewis retail brand.

The former has recently completed agreements that will see it partner with local operators to open new stores in Turkey, Malaysia and Singapore. "We have a clear strategy to partner outside Europe with leading distributors in territories around the world to further internationalise and globalise the Superdry brand," said Julian Dunkerton, the founder and chief executive of SuperGroup, the owner of Superdry.

John Lewis, meanwhile, plans to open an airport store at Heathrow to build brand awareness among overseas customers. And Sean Allam, director of commercial operations, indicated the intention to enter up to ten new markets over the next 5-7 years, with South Korea one likely destination.

"It has a healthy mix of home-grown and European brands, especially British brands, which do quite well," Allam noted.

Ritu Mohan, managing director at Boots Retail Thailand, which plans to grow its number of outlets 50% in the next three years, cautioned that brands entering new markets had to prepare properly.

"The main challenge is getting your brand known and competing against established local and global brands," she said, adding: "It is not easy to encourage loyal local consumers to try something new."

"Look at what your competitors are doing and invest in consumer research," she advised. "After all, understanding what your consumers want and need is key to your success."

Data sourced from Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff