Helping businesses achieve their potential is at the heart of what we do. Last week, Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce flagship IFB event facilitated over 300 1-2-1 meetings between British businesses and overseas representatives.

Wed 22nd, Jun

Andy Snell, Director of Commercial Services reflects on the Chamber’s involvement in the International Festival for Business 2016 last Thursday.

With Euro 2016 well underway, it seems fitting to judge the success of last week’s Meet Your Global Business Network conference by one key statistic.

2014 1-to-1 meetings - 280

2016 1-to-1 meetings - 340

Helping British businesses achieve their potential is at the heart of what Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce do. Last Thursday was about putting ambitious British SME’s in front of people who can not only help them expand into new international markets, but how to be successful in doing so. Judging from the figures above, we delivered.

On the day, we were joined by some fantastic speakers who covered a diverse range of topics that will shape the global marketplace in years to come. John Carroll of International Chambers of Commerce & Santander began by stating the importance of international trade to the global economy, emphasising the role it plays in jobs, growth and investment. This was followed by Greg Clarke CBE who discussed how major cities have shaped our world and how they will continue to play an ever more important role in global connectivity. Our final keynote was given by Stephen Phillips, CEO of China Britain Business Council. Stephen spoke about the largest and most ambitious infrastructural project in the world and one that presents vast opportunities for companies and will impact global trade exponentially; China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.

Acting Director General of British Chambers of Commerce, Adam Marshall commented: “Businesses attending the BCC’s ‘Meet Your Global Business Network’ event at the IFB had the chance to hear from knowledgeable trade experts, representing Chambers from every continent.

“From an overview of opportunities available with the ‘One Belt, One Road’ initiative in China, to detailed discussions on how to find partners in countries such as Thailand and Chile, there was a wealth of information given to delegates.

“The 1-2-1 meetings between businesses and Chambers were just a taster of the reliable and agile support available to businesses through the BCC’s Global Business Network of Chambers.”

Having overseas connections is fundamental to any business with global aspirations. That is why we are very proud to have had the support of likeminded and internationally focused organisations such as DLA Piper, Santander, Turkish Airlines & Warrant Group. With their help, last week’s conference helped lay the foundations for hundreds of British businesses to go global and achieve their international potential by engaging with overseas Chambers of Commerce.

In 2014 the Chamber helped over 120 businesses involved in the conference go on to receive European Regional Development Fund grants (ERDF), an important source of financial support that helps businesses take part in overseas trade missions. Getting feet on the ground is one of the most important actions a business can take when deciding whether or not a particular market is right for them. We hope that even more delegates from 2016 will go on to receive this funding and look forward to updating you further in the weeks to come.

Chambers of Commerce from around the UK act as the go to places for ambitious British businesses interested in growth. As part of the Global Business Network, Liverpool & Sefton Chambers are part of a connected, agile and responsive group of over 40 international Chambers and business organisations who share one common purpose – helping UK SME’s achieve their potential. Whilst our conference has been and gone, Liverpool Chamber works daily, helping ambitious British businesses achieve their exporting ambitious. From Chile to China, Jeddah to Johannesburg, Liverpool Chamber’s Global Business Network is here to make trading internationally work for you.

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Posted by Amanda Dodd

Founder and Creative Director of Koogar Limited

Mon 20th, Jun

I recently delivered a Tech Tuesday session for Liverpool Chamber in the International room where Business Owners and Marketing Managers attended to find out what Blogging was all about.

The session I ran started with a discussion based on WHERE your blog fits within your marketing strategy. We then moved on to WHO will be reading your blog. After the audience discovered two sources would be reading the blog we looked at Content vs Context and talking about writing content for no good reason won’t get you the results you are after.

The main reason people leave your company (in fact 68%) is because they believe that you don’t care about them! So what VALUE do you give them and how can you make them FEEL like you do care?

Think about the last customer who left your company. Did they tell you or did they just go? What could you have done to stop that from happening and how can you put that in place now?

I’m not saying blogging would have prevented them but by using this marketing method effectively you would be able to answer questions they may have as well as challenges and struggles and within a nurturing process been able to keep them on board.

Here are the slides from the Blogging Session - https://www.slideshare.net/secret/KUcgd5WDjNXJnLv

I have 3 questions for you to answer about blogging:

1. WHY are you blogging? What is the reason for you to spend 20 minutes to an hour to write content?
 

2. What are your blogging GOALS? What do you want to get out of blogging?
 

3. WHO are you writing for and what do they perceive as valuable?

There is a lot more than can be covered within this subject like, tools and software to use, Plug-ins, S.E.O (Search Engine Optimisation) tips and Keyword analysis… But before you get to the nitty gritty of it all, you must first answer the 3 questions above and I guarantee you WILL be writing differently!

Need a little help?

Email Amanda at info@koogar.co.uk with the subject line “#BlogUnearthing” to book a FREE 20 “Unearthing” Session where you can chat with Amanda about your blog and how you can make it a more effective marketing pillar.

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Fri 03rd, Jun

The upcoming referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union is one of the most dominate features of the UK political landscape this year.

As a Chamber, we have adopted a neutral stance in the debate however the below information sheets may be of interest to you in the coming weeks.

 

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Posted by Ed Gommon

Liverpool Community Renewables Limited

Thu 02nd, Jun

In December a historic new global climate agreement was agreed at the United Nations conference on climate change in Paris. The Paris Agreement is certainly to be welcomed but it will not stop climate change on its own. The beginning of a long process, it is definitely a step forward, empowering civil society groups and citizens to hold their elected representatives to account and push their local authorities to do more to transition away from fossil fuels and reduce green-house gas emissions.

The net zero carbon emissions goal is now mainstream global policy, which will filter down to the nations and regions. It’s now a question of when and how, not if, we get there and the likelihood is, as a city in a developed nation, it’s going to have to be before 2050.

All partners, including the business sector will need to play a key role if we are to achieve that target. At the recent Liverpool & Sefton Chamber’s Green Lunch it was heartening to hear how both Jaguar Land Rover and Unilever are supporting renewables on site. We need more organisations, both public and private sector, to be engaged. For example, facilitating and supporting the development of renewable energy. At one level, this might be buying renewable energy that has been generated locally, or on another level it could be allowing community energy companies to use their land or roofs to site renewable energy systems, for example solar panels.

Crucially we also need more innovative partnerships. The recently improved Blackfriars station in London has the world’s largest solar bridge. It has over 400 photovoltaic panels, enough to cover 23 tennis courts, crown the roof and provide up to 50 per cent of the station's energy, enough to make almost 80,000 cups of tea a day. They will reduce the station's CO2 emissions by an estimated 511 tonnes per year, equivalent to around 89,000 average car journeys.

Very few buildings have expanses of roof like our stations do, and they are often perfect for installing solar panels – so why can’t all our stations use their roofs in this way?

The bottom line for the UK and us here in the Liverpool city region is that this is a big, game changing deal and in my view we need to grasp the nettle and take control of our own zero carbon destiny and set our own target and timeline. Why shouldn’t we create our own roadmap of how we become a zero carbon city region by 2040!

Ed Gommon, Director

Liverpool Community Renewables Limited

http://lcr.coop/

@LcrCoop

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Jonathan is Managing Director of Aqueous Digital based in Runcorn.

Posted by Jonathan Guy

Aqueous Digital

Thu 02nd, Jun

Getting your website noticed these days is a pretty hard task. This is particularly true if you are a small business in a competitive sector and more especially if you need to rank in a city like Liverpool.

Why?

Well, Liverpool is a magnet for businesses all over the country. Not only are they trying to rank their websites for their local area but they also want to come up in searches specifically for Liverpool.

When you look at the figures, it shouldn’t be a surprise.

As the seventh biggest city in the UK and with a population of around half a million people this is a market which no business would want to ignore. Just try searching for a local tradesman in Liverpool and more often than not you will find aggregators such as Yell, Checkatrade, Freeindex, Gumtree and the like crowding out the websites of genuine local businesses.

The question I get asked more often than not is “how can I compete against these ‘big’ websites when I’m just a small local business?”

The answer is actually simpler than you think and the fact that you are a ‘small local business’ gives you a distinct advantage against the larger players.

We covered the basics in the Tech Tuesday talk on 22nd March (slides are available here) but the summary is as follows.

  • Make sure that your website has been built with users in mind. Can they find what they are looking for easily? Is it clear what you do? Can they contact you from every page?
  • Ensure that each page talks about just one thing. If you want to be found for Central Heating repairs make sure you have a page that is built exclusively for that. Don’t hide it away on a page that talks generally about plumbing.
  • Optimise the page for the search engines as well as customers. This means writing a relevant title, heading and description and making each page different.
  • Write good content. If you can’t do this then outsource it as this is critical. Good content should sell the benefits of using you at the start then tell people about the service they can expect. A good page is one with a lot of information on, not just nice pictures.
  • Make sure you have claimed your Google My Business listing. This puts you on the map locally.

 

The advantage you will have over the bigger businesses, and the secret they don’t want you to know about, is that they are all spreading themselves too thinly.

Google wants to give anyone searching the very best answer to the query they type in. So if you type in ‘boiler repairs Gateacre’ Google wants to give you a choice. As I type this, currently the top five results are all Yell.com. That’s not choice.

What Google is looking for is one really good page from a firm that offers boiler repairs in Gateacre and it would quickly shove most of those Yell entries out of the way. Currently it can’t find an alternative so we are left with no choice at all.

So if you are a Central heating specialist in Gateacre and are looking for more boiler repair work then this is your chance to beat the big boys!

 

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In the UK most small businesses don’t use any form of formal computerised software, choosing instead to use manual record keeping or excel spreadsheets. Cloud based solutions are revolutionising the software market.

Posted by Judith Dugdale

Head of Cloud Accounting Moore and Smalley Chartered Accounts

  • T: 01772 821021
  • E: Judith.dugdale@mooreandsmalley.co.uk
Wed 25th, May

Background

Cloud accounting has been around for longer than most people realise and whilst is fairly new to the UK small business market it is well established in countries such as USA, Australia and New Zealand. In fact 40% of all business of New Zealand use a cloud based accounting software to keep their accounting records.

In the UK most small businesses don’t use any form of formal computerised software, choosing instead to use manual record keeping or excel spreadsheets. The reason for this is that traditional software such as Sage Line 50 can be expensive and complicated to use for very small businesses or startups. Most small businesses in the UK use Sage Line 50 if they do use a computerised system as it has been the market leader for two decades or more. Cloud based solutions such as Quickbooks Online, Xero and Free Agent are revolutionising the bookkeeping software market through the  use of new technology which allows the user to save time, keep records up to date on the move and doing so while being cost effective.

The benefits of cloud software

The main benefit is that the direct bank feeds into the software from your online banking facility mean that data input is reduced. The software uses intuitive, state of the art technology which actually remembers past transactions and tells you where they should be posted within the system. Many have the facility to raise invoices to customers from your phone or tablet to allow invoicing on the go, again saving time at the end of the day and allowing small businesses to raise invoices quicker, which in turn means they get paid quicker.

More established and well funded versions such as Xero and QuickbooksOnline incorporate payroll software for a minimal additional cost, further enhancing their appeal. The software is hosted on the cloud which means you can access the software anywhere, on any device so long as you have an internet connection.

For small businesses where the owner is having to run their business as well as keep all the bookkeeping up to date rave about the time saving cloud accounting software has brought them. They have been able to improve their work life balance while gaining better control over their businesses finances – a win win situation!

Cloud accounting software in general has been built with the business user in mind. Processes are easy to use and laid out in a clear manner. No course in bookkeeping is necessary to get up and running, just a few hours training which can be done via an accountant or by using the providers online training guides.

What does cloud based mean?

Basically it means the software is not hosted on your computer or internal servers, instead the provider has large data centres where your data is held, along with all other users of the software. They are accessed via secure hosting sites so that you can access the data where you have internet access. The provider does all the software updates at once, on their servers, so the down time is minimal and usually these updates are done while you are asleep. No more costly upgrades when government changes are introduced or when your hardware is using an older Microsoft platform. What is more because the software is accessed on the internet you can access it on both traditional hardware along with more modern laptop such as Imac’s.

What about security?

A question that is posed a lot to me is what about security of data? What happens if someone hacks in? In case of Xero and QuickbooksOnline, the two leading players in the UK, the security levels are greater than that of online banking. Therefore if you are happy to use online banking it should follow that you are happy to use cloud software. Moreover, the future of these companies depends upon them keeping everyone’s data secure. They spend a colossal amount of money on securing their servers knowing that any security breach could mean an overnight end to their business.

Another area linked to security that is often brought up is data protection. Again, the two major players in the market actually have their data centres in the US. Many people are aware that in the US the data protection laws are much less onerous than those in the EU. However, the UK market is such a key area that these organisations comply with EU-US data protection agreements to ensure they can attract UK customers.

Most of us, unknowingly, already have data in the US. If you have a facebook, twitter or gmail account to name just three, your data is already in the US.  

Is it here to stay?

The simple answer is yes. Cloud accounting software is the way forward and is not going to go away. It is still in its infancy and people making the switch now are the early adopters. SAGE have now enhanced SAGE One, which was a very poor Cloud offering, as they can see the trend for businesses switching to online software. In my opinion they still fall short of the biggest cloud players and have work to do which they are, and I have no doubt than in a few years they will have an excellent alternative within the market place. It is seen as such a huge change in the accounting industry that many accountancy firms now have a cloud based service which allows you to pay monthly for accountancy support and often at reduced costs to what businesses currently pay, particularly if they have manual or spreadsheet records at the moment.

Is it complicated to make the switch?

Switching to cloud software is easy, and can be done at any point in the year. I recommend that people initially speak to their accountant to find out which software they support to make it easier to gain help if it is needed. There are so many choices that it makes sense to get help from the experts to ensure you get the correct advice. It is also worth highlighting that your accountant can have real time access to your software so they can give you proactive not reactive advice.

If you are interested and want to find out more contact Judith Dugdale, head of cloud accounting at Moore and Smalley Chartered accounts. Judith can be reached on 01772 821021, via twitter @judithDugdale or via email Judith.dugdale@mooreandsmalley.co.uk.

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Microsoft Office provide us with their tips on making flexible working work..

Posted by Microsoft Cloud Computing

Fri 13th, May

Hark back to the time you’ve had the best ideas of your professional life. Where were you at the time? Taking a walk? Having a discussion with your friend over a pint of beer? Or, better still – in the shower?

The notion that you’re most productive at your job in the office is becoming outdated. Chief Envisioning Officer at Microsoft, Dave Coplin, says “The basic issue with flexible working is just what is it? One of the challenges I consistently see is that when I say “flexible working”, most people hear “working from home”. And actually, flexible working is not necessarily working from home.  Flexible working is about being able to make a choice, on any given day, about the most appropriate location for the work you’re about to do.”.

To make flexible working work there are two important question a business owner must ask.  Does my organisation have the right culture to adopt flexible working and do I have the right tools to enable effective flexible working?  Let’s start by looking at the tools.

Choosing the right tools for flexible working

To do business anywhere, reliable tech tools that are accessible anywhere are a bare essential. Be it attending customer calls or accessing files on the move, it’s vital to choose the right flexible working technologies for your business. Here are three flexible working technologies that make flexible working more efficient.

The Cloud

Cloud computing means storing and using data and programmes over the internet instead of your computer’s hard drive.  Sound complicated? It isn’t!  If you checked your email on your smartphone this morning, then chances are the data was stored in the cloud.  Organisations who want to embrace flexible working should be embracing the cloud and equipping their teams with tools that allow them to communicate effectively, access and share files wherever they are (with or without internet connection) and make them more productive than ever.  You can try Office 365 for free to test out these useful features. 

The Device

Whether it is a swanky tablet that can do backflips or a simple notebook that purrs, choosing the right device is important to achieve the ultimate flexibility solution.  Windows 10 mobile devices range from laptops, notebooks, tablets and phones and come with handy features such as touch, type, write or speak depending on where you are and who you are with.

The Padlock

Make it safe to work anywhere and avoid any disasters should you or someone in your business lose their device.  It happens!  With useful tools like Microsoft’s Enterprise Mobility Suite (EMS) you can have peace of mind that your devices and any sensitive information on them is protected. It is just one easy to manage package which is affordable for any small business and works seamlessly with Office 365.

 

To find out more about how to make flexible working work for your business why not try Office 365 for your business

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Ahead of our flagship event at the International Festival of Business 2016, Meet Your Global Business Network, we look at the opportunities for British firms in Singapore

Fri 15th, Apr

Sitting centrally in South East Asia, Singapore is ideally located for British businesses looking to access one of the most exciting and profitable regions in the global economy.

Recognised by the World Bank as the easiest place to open, run and conduct business and located on historically commercial maritime and aviation routes, Singapore is globally renowned as a key logistical hub that sits at the heart of international trade.

British firms looking to engage with the Singaporean market and capitalise on recent growth in the wider region are attracted to Singapore for the fact it can serve as a gateway to other nations not only in South East Asia, but the whole Asian continent. With strong IP protection, a highly skilled and educated population and 50% of the world’s population within a 6 hour flight, Singapore is a market with tremendous opportunity.

Whilst all industries and sectors are of interest, there are more prospects for UK businesses in the following areas;

  • Aerospace
  • Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering
  • Clean Energy
  • Financial & Professional Services
  • Smart Technologies

Interested in discovering more? ‘Meet Your Global Business Network’ will return as part of IFB2016 on Thursday 16th June. You’ll have the chance to participate in a 1-2-1 meeting with Brigitte Holtschneider, Executive Director of the British Chamber of Commerce, Singapore.

Brigitte will be one of many regional specialists joining us on the day, over 30+ international markets have currently confirmed including: Latin America, South East Asia/Asia-Pacific, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.

With a wealth of knowledge and experience, these regional specialists are key to providing the specific advice and support needed to turn exporting ambitions into trading realities.

On the day, keynote speakers will set the scene on emerging markets for global businesses, you can attend breakout panel sessions with specific markets and we’ll facilitate 1-2-1 meetings on your behalf, ensuring you to setup the relationships and support needed for your exporting journey. There will also be plenty of networking breaks for you to develop new business relationships, opening the door to new opportunities.

Click here to view the full agenda, secure tickets and find out further information.

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The Liverpool City Region business community will be particularly intrigued by the chancellors announcements in Wednesday’s budget.

Posted by Paul Cherpeau

Chief Executive

Tue 15th, Mar

The Liverpool City Region business community will be particularly intrigued by the chancellors announcements in Wednesday’s budget. The shadow of a potential Brexit, a weak pound abroad and the internal divisions within the Conservative Party have put the Chancellor in arguably his weakest position since the start of the Coalition government in 2010. The austerity announced in November’s Autumn Statement was relatively limited, but may well now be felt in full force in this budget.

Skills

This budget, taking place during National Apprenticeship Week, and must provide greater detail of how the government will manage and distribute apprenticeship funding for business.

Further education, not just in Liverpool but across the UK, is under extreme financial pressures impacting on local colleges’ ability to deliver the quality demanded by government. Reforms to the funding of apprenticeships have already begun with the introduction of the apprenticeship levy for larger organisations but there is still a lack of clarity over what role SMEs are expected to take in providing training and apprenticeships - after all SMEs are the majority of our membership and together make up the largest set of employers in Liverpool. There remains much uncertainty concerning how businesses will access apprenticeships beyond August 2017, when the current funding regime will cease and the chancellor should be clear on what happens next.

Business Rates Reform

The door has been opened for business rates reform but for too long has appeared to be unattainable. Devolution has created an opportunity for reform here in Liverpool City Region but the focus to date has been on who gets to keep and spend business rates, rather than reforming the valuation, collection and rate-setting system. The long-awaited reform must be fair and provide safeguards to businesses that rates will not simply be seen as a cash cow to plug future funding gaps by local authorities. The Government should include local businesses through the Chambers of Commerce to shape and design their proposed changes to business rate retention so unintended impacts and consequences don't disturb the fragile economic recovery in Liverpool City Region.

Northern Powerhouse

Northern Powerhouse remains a consistently stated brand without a clear product. Whilst transport infrastructure has been mooted as the biggest tangible opportunity for the Northern Powerhouse little detail has emerged of the real projects required.  Liverpool 2 requires freight links and Lime Street needs regenerating so it can accommodate faster and more frequent services, while an announcement that includes the Liverpool Link in High speed rail plans is also overdue.

Tax simplification

Businesses are increasingly burdened with a complex and punishing tax regime that places increasing burdens on their ability to succeed. Pensions auto-enrolment, the National Living Wage, the apprenticeship levy, quarterly tax reporting and a hike in Insurance Premium Tax have all placed added costs and administrative burdens on companies whilst hikes in dividend tax and restrictions on pensions allowance have inhibited entrepreneurship.

A commitment to deliver no further up-front business taxes for the remainder of this Parliament would be welcomed as there is a growing fear in the Liverpool business community that regulation and administrative changes  are becoming a very real and damaging obstacle to investment and growth and, by proxy, jobs creation in The region.

Enable a supportive culture at HMRC

Taxation is already complex, yet businesses are increasingly frustrated by the dwindling resources and conduct of the taxmen and women at HMRC. The prevalence of a punitive approach to business impedes Liverpool business communities confidence that they are compliant with the plethora of legislation. Rather than a target-driven enforcement culture, investment in providing genuine business support and improving the tax collection processes would be a warmly welcomed improvement to HMRC’s function.

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Stephen Hannigan, Corporate Development Manager at Warrant Group has lived and worked in the Middle East. Here he gives some insight and advice into exporting to the region.

Posted by Stephen Hannigan

Corporate Development Manager, Warrant Group

  • T: 0151 955 0600
  • E: enquiries@warrant-group.com
Mon 14th, Mar

The Middle East is a culturally and socially diverse region with a lot to offer UK exporters. Its customs processes are fairly complex compared with other parts of the world but with effective supply chain expertise and local knowledge, exciting opportunities are there for the taking.

Has the importer got the necessary authority to import?  Don't fall at the first hurdle, make sure that your importer is registered!

You'd be surprised how often this is not the case, especially among new-to-the-market importers offering great deals!

Do the imported goods need to be registered with a ministry, health department/municipality before release?

Different countries and regions have many local requirements and without the necessary approvals, imported goods will not be released from customs. Be aware that the documentation process in the Middle East is still largely paper based; documents are inspected and rubber-stamped manually rather than being processed electronically.

Best time to export?

The Middle East weekend is a Friday/Saturday so ensure freight arrives on a Saturday evening or Sunday morning to prevent excessive dwell time at customs. And, just like Chinese New Year where productivity in the world's factory slows, be aware of national celebrations including Ramadam, Eid and the Arabic New Year.

Are there any cross selling or brand limitations?  In some territories there will be an authorised importer for a brand, if you wish to import products for general sale or use in a project you may need to get a Non Objection Certificate (NOC) from the licence holder.

Is it necessary to label the goods in Arabic? This is especially relevant for goods such as foodstuffs and cosmetics etc.

Where should I ship to? Ideally export to the nearest port of arrival and let the importer handled the onward journey to limit your liabilities. Weigh up the pros and cons of exporting to a hub region, bearing in mind onward transportation costs and delays through multiple customs clearances.

Are there any rules saying it is necessary to use specific ports, airport or carriers?

Importers often have specific requirements for duty exemption in certain industries. For example importation of duty exempt goods for Abu Dhabi must only be done at Abu Dhabi International Airport or seaport - if you try and import at Dubai World Central Airports, you'll be liable for five per cent duty.

Are there any new or forthcoming legislation/regulatory changes to be aware of?

At the moment, there is no VAT in the Middle East but this could change with talk about a proposed VAT levy in the United Arab Emirates of anywhere between 3% and 5% but this still to be confirmed.

Additionally, extra duty levies are often imposed if the product being imported could be sourced locally - there is a lot of industry in the Middle East, from textiles to engineering.

And finally, what about the weather? Never underestimate the obvious! I can clearly remember a container full of foodstuffs left on the quay during the summer; the smell was horrendous. It all depends on the product but with temperatures soaring to 45 degrees Celsius and above, goods left in a metal container can quickly deteriorate. Consider the need for a refrigerated container, known as a reefer.

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