Business Luxury Lifestyle

Alena Puchkova, Grishko: Sales without Borders Create a Quest for the Company

According to data from the Mosprom Center for Export Support, Moscow’s non-resource non-energy exports—anything other than coal, oil, gas, timber, and the like—were up 28% year-on-year in the first nine months of 2021 to USD 23.16 billion. The city government is interested in stimulating non-resource non-energy exports because of their high added value. As a local company, Grishko’s experience shows, light industry goods such as clothes, shoes, and accessories are a promising export niche.    

Grishko has manufactured and sold dance shoes, wear, and accessories for over 30 years. Today, it is one of the world’s largest exporters in its segment with buyers in over 75 countries, including the United States, Asia, and Europe. Grishko’s manager for online marketing, Alena Puchkova, explains how a small family business in Moscow became a global powerhouse and shares advice for business owners looking to sell abroad. 

How do you explain Grishko’s success as a global brand? What sets the company apart from its competitors? 

I think the fact that we own our manufacturing base is our main advantage. Not many companies are prepared to make that investment. Unlike most of our competitors, we never outsourced any of our products. We do have to invest in equipment, but the results are stunning. 

When you have the whole team in a single space—from planning and design to logistics and manufacturing—people can pop into each other’s offices to ask questions and products get tested more thoroughly. Defects get picked up and fixed quickly before the customer ever sees them. 

Our success is built on Full control of manufacturing and good communication. 

What are your priority export markets, and how did you choose them?

Our top market is the United States because it has such rich opportunities for both classical ballet and modern dance. Most of our output goes there. 

We launched our Nikolay brand for the US market two years ago and managed to grow it with very little investment in advertising. Today, the brand is sold in over 300 stores and has 26,000 subscribers on Instagram.

In addition to the United States, we sell in Asia, where our top markets are China, Japan, and Korea. Europe is another important market, and we have an innovative logistics center in Prague that lets us get products to clients in 48 hours, sometimes even faster.

What hurdles do companies need to anticipate as they consider exporting?

Definitely customs duties. This is an area where every market has its own rules. Study the rules for the region where you want to sell so you don’t end up with a nasty surprise at customs. If the product costs the customer twice what they expected, that can significantly affect sales.

And if you’re planning to sell in multiple countries, make sure you are clear about your domestic price and the recommended retail price for each country so that the brand retains a single style globally.

The second thing to think about is logistics, which has become more difficult during the pandemic. Freight companies are having trouble handling the volume of goods they have to move. On the bright side, this is encouraging the industry to upgrade technology. 

The retail world has changed dramatically in the last five years, and borders are starting to disappear. People can and do buy things from the other side of the world. But this creates a quest of sorts for companies, because they need to know exactly what they can sell, at what price, and what difficulties they will encounter along the supply chain. 

The Mosprom Center for Export Support makes it easy for companies based in Moscow to sell in foreign markets. The Center’s experts tailor their assistance to each company’s needs, with services that range from finding potential partners and organizing talks to helping companies attend international trade shows and business missions. The Center works with companies to adapt their presentations and offers detailed analysis of target markets and product export potential for effective pre-sales activities. All of this assistance is provided free of charge.

What other hidden details do companies need to know about when they send products abroad?

Remember that the cost of shipping isn’t just based on weight: it’s also based on volume. We vacuum pack our dancewear to keep it compact, but that doesn’t work with shoes. 

You might think that your shipment is going to be relatively inexpensive, but then you get the invoice and it’s ten times what you expected. That happens all the time. So find out ahead of time how weight and volume affect the price. 

Shippers may try to get your business by offering discounts, but you should read the fine print and make sure you qualify. Discounts for wholesale shipments won’t apply to an online retail store that only ships small packages. 

These are all things you need to find out ahead of time so you can compare companies and choose the one that works best for you. 

What would you say to someone who is thinking about opening their own business and doesn’t know where to start?

Our founder, Nikolay Grishko, was a diplomat who didn’t have any direct ties to the dance world. But his wife was a dancer, and he saw the potential to change his own life and the lives of the people who work for him, the people who buy Grishko products, and the dance world at large. 

So here’s my advice: get started!


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