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CVP (UK) secures its EU business from a new Flanders base

What do Netflix, the BBC, Bloomberg and even projects of The Olympics, Planet Earth and The James Bond Franchise have in common? They have all relied on services from CVP. Headquartered in the UK, the company is one of Europe’s largest independent resellers of production equipment for media and entertainment. To mitigate the challenges of Brexit, CVP reached out to Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) to get assistance in setting up a base in Flanders, Belgium’s northern region. From there, the company will be able to easily provide its services to EU customers starting in February 2022.

Jon Fry, managing director of CVP
Jon Fry, managing director of CVP
“At the start of 2021 our business with the EU almost completely stopped. Delivery times had increased fourfold, our customers were having to pay VAT and duty rates were uncertain. Brexit forced us to re-evaluate our EU business operations. We explored many options but decided that the best way of managing the challenges was to set up a base in Flanders. It subsequently presented us with an exciting opportunity and the potential to expand our business. Flanders Investment & Trade has been a huge help.”
Jon Fry, Managing Director of CVP

Leading force in Europe

Founded back in 1986, CVP not only resells production equipment, but also offers creative consultation, financial advice, technical and training services tailored to the needs of TV, film and broadcasting players. Having gone through a successful management buyout in 2017, the company has been consistently and organically growing for years. In 2021, turnover reached GBP 105 million, a number that’s expected to grow to GBP 140 million by mid-2022.

CVP’s current 183-strong team works across the company’s sites in London, the Midlands, Glasgow, and as of February 2022, in Flanders. The business is predominantly managed through dedicated account management teams. However, customers can also make direct purchases through CVP’s website, which represents about 20% of the business. The majority of its customers – around 80% – are based in the UK, while 15% are from the EU and 5% from other parts of the world.

Handling uncertainties

In recent years, the socio-economic context has not been kind to CVP’s industry and that of its customers. As COVID-19 wreaked havoc across the globe, film and TV productions initially had to be ceased, while stringent safety protocols were put in place, budgets got tighter, and staff shortages were prevalent. But as people changed their media and entertainment consumption habits during the COVID pandemic, the demand for new content started increasing again. Consequently, the need for production equipment also boomed – and CVP surfed the wave.

However, at the start of 2021, Brexit officially came into effect, adding more uncertainty to the mix. The first half of the year proved very challenging, as trade between the UK and EU was hindered dramatically. CVP’s customers suddenly faced challenges such as uncertainty about the customs duties and VAT to be paid.

In addition, there was a lot of uncertainty about deliveries. Before Brexit, CVP was able to guarantee next-day delivery. But following Brexit, shipping times began to vary from one EU country to another, as well as between customs officials within the same country. This caused varying delays for the same piece of kit, with delivery sometimes taking up to four times longer than before.

Resilient in the face of COVID and Brexit

CVP didn’t wait out the storm, though. Instead, the company took the bull by the horns by establishing a new operations base in mainland Europe – in Vilvoorde (Flanders), just outside of the region’s capital of Brussels. This has allowed the company to ship to EU countries without charging VAT. Duties and taxes are paid in Flanders and then transferred to other countries. What’s more, starting from February 2022, the Flanders-based site will also maintain an inventory to improve delivery times even further.

As a result of its investment in Flanders, CVP expects to have recovered its EU business to pre-Brexit levels by the end of May 2022. Meanwhile, the company’s sales figures for the rest of the world continue their already increased growth trajectory.

With help from Flanders (Investment & Trade)

Despite the challenges, CVP never considered giving up on the EU market:

“Our business is all about the customer, and the only consideration is what the customer wants. So, we had to find a way to respond to the needs of our EU customers by removing barriers. We looked at different possible scenarios and eventually decided to handle things properly by investing in EU-based premises.”
Jon Fry, managing director of CVP

The company’s journey in Flanders started with launching operations at a partner organization’s warehouse, more specifically through a subletting agreement. This was such an immediate success that CVP soon realized it needed to work out a long-term solution in Flanders. The company thoroughly studied the region and its commercial prospects, identifying numerous reasons to stay there more permanently. During this process, CVP also approached Flanders Investment & Trade (FIT) to assist in setting up the Flanders business.

“FIT has been a huge help. The team is very well connected to help directly or refer you to a specialist company. They speak English, Dutch and French, which is a massive help. Working with FIT has made navigating the local market a lot easier for us, especially with the complexities of compliance, regulations, payroll, etc.”
Jon Fry, managing director of CVP

Good times ahead

One thing is crystal clear: CVP decided to consider its COVID and Brexit challenges as opportunities. The British company has shown great resilience and resourcefulness, taking the time to reassess the way it operates and further develop the services it offers to customers. When asked if he has any advice for other companies looking to safeguard their business from the impact of Brexit, CVP managing director Jon Fry didn’t think twice:

“I would advise other companies not to let Brexit deter them and to make use of the help available. If there is – or was – business, you should find a way back. The most effective way to trade for us has been to set up a base in Flanders. But be aware that such a decision does involve a great deal of commitment and investment.”
Jon Fry, managing director of CVP

Meanwhile, the future is looking bright. With its new EU base established and even more plans in the pipeline, CVP is confident that it will not just win back business but also continue growing and expanding – in Flanders, Europe and beyond.

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Reported by
Flanders Investment & Trade
18 January 2022

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