CB Umi

Shortlisted for the PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards Small Exporter of the Year Award, we meet Chris Black, Managing Director of Sound Leisure.

What does your company do? 

We manufacture jukeboxes that are styled on the classic machines from the 40s and 50s. They are able to play either CD, Vinyl or digital formats. 

When was your company launched, who by and why? 

The company was launched by Alan Black (my father) in 1978 – he wanted to manufacture the first 100% British built jukebox – something he realised in 1980 with the launch of his first vinyl jukebox at Alexander Palace (Ally Pally) in London. 

How long has the company been exporting? 

Approx. 36 years. 

What do you currently export, and where to? 

We export our range of jukeboxes to 28 different countries, America has been our largest export for the past four years but China is now starting to really take off. 

What motivated you to start selling overseas, and how long did it take? 

The exhibition that was held at Ally Pally was an internationally recognised show that attracted visitors from across the globe. This kick started our exporting and it took off quickly. 

What is the export challenge you’re most proud of overcoming? How did you manage this? 

Exporting British built jukeboxes to America – The birthplace of the jukebox was no mean feat. This took a lot of work from a safety testing perspective and cost a lot of money too – however, we were extremely lucky to find good partners who we have been working closely with for the past four years. 

Did you get any support when you wanted to trade abroad? Who from, and how did it help you? 

DIT has offered us great support and have funded trips for us to allow us to visit various countries to eyeball potential distributors – a preferred way selling for us. 

What advice would you give to someone just starting to explore overseas markets?  

If possible, visit the customer/distributor and look them in the eye – see what their set up is. The biggest learning, however, is to ensure you receive payment before you ship anything! 

Where next? What markets are you looking into and where do you see the company in five years’ time?  

We need to concentrate fully on China at this time – that has been a key target along with Japan, before we move anywhere else we need to ensure we are maximising our presence and getting everything we can out of these two markets

The five year plan is a hard one to answer now – following the coronavirus outbreak, the world marketplace is going to take some rebuilding, especially for high-end luxury items such as ours. 

Current stats are showing a 25% - 35% downturn in the Chinese market for luxury items, however, they expect this to be reduced over the next quarter. Europe seems set to be hit harder and will likely take longer to recover – so it is currently very difficult to plan for five years outlook. 

How do you feel about being shortlisted for the Northern Powerhouse Export Awards and what does it mean to your business?  

We are delighted to have been shortlisted for the Northern Powerhouse Export Awards. As a proud Northern business that takes every opportunity to promote the region, it is a great honour for our team to be recognised for their hard work and dedication.

For more information on the PD Ports Northern Export awards visit https://www.northernexportawards.co.uk/


Amanda Armstrong
Article by Amanda Armstrong
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