THE inventors of an award-winning electric fireplace are to sell it internationally after winning a six-figure finance package.

The New Forest Electric Fire is described as a modern take on the traditional electric fireplace and is already sold across the UK.

It was developed by British Fires, part of the Focal Point Fires group in Christchurch. The company won an industry award for it but was “nervous” about making a big investment in exporting during the coronavirus crisis.

The business secured finance from HSBC via the government-backed Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), allowing it to embark on a five-year distributor deal for North America .

Carl Richards, chairman of British Fires, said: “Just before Covid took hold, our New Forest Electric Fire had just won a significant industry award at the New Orleans expo, presenting us with many opportunities to partner with well-connected distributors.

“Over recent years, we’ve seen a dramatic shift away from solid fuel appliances to electric fires as an alternative source of heat, so we knew we had to move fast to get the product finalised and shipped ahead of the crucial winter months but were nervous about making a big investment at such an uncertain time. HSBC UK’s support, led by our relationship director Richard Hoyle, came at just the right moment and has been instrumental in getting our chosen distributor deal over the line.”

Gareth Evans, area director for Hampshire and Dorset at HSBC UK, said: “We knew British Fires had a small window of opportunity to get its new product out into the international market before its competitors, so we moved quickly to put a funding facility in place to make its 2020 ambition a reality.

“The CBILS loan means the initial five containers will soon be on their way to North America in time for critical pre-winter sales. This has been a fantastic exporting success story in some of the toughest global market conditions we’ve known; we’re delighted to have been involved.”

The New Forest Electric Fire uses patented flame technology and is certified and tested for the US market. The firm’s US partner, Miles Industries Vancouver, owns the Valor brand name and sells into 800 retailers across North America. British Fires will continue discussions with other distributors about Europe and the rest of the world.