SMEs encouraged to consider export markets

Smaller firms should look seriously at exporting as a way of combating the economic downturn.

That was the message of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) at the start of World Trade Week UK.

The call followed a survey from the BCC which showed that the majority of firms that export do so because they have been approached by their customers (58 per cent) or by an agent or distributor (19 per cent).

Half of the firms polled said they export to specific markets because they already have connections there.

The BCC said the figures suggest that many businesses are not as proactive as they could be when it comes to exporting.

The survey also found that exporting does not feature in the business plans of 43 per cent of firms.

Support and help in finding clients would encourage one in five (21 per cent) of non-exporting businesses to consider trading overseas, while 16 per cent said they would be incentivised by a ‘one stop shop’ that provided market research, legal advice and fiscal support.

The BCC has teamed up with UK Trade and Investment to promote the benefits of selling abroad.

David Frost, the BCC’s director general, commented: “Exporting is vital to the future growth of the UK economy. Not just in manufacturing but services as well. Thanks to our membership of the EU, we have a home market of nearly 500 million consumers and we should be using it as much as our European competitors are.

“Britain has some hugely successful exporters, both large and small, but we don’t have enough of them. We need to explore why these companies are successful, what drives them, and what lessons can be learnt by other companies that have equally good products but do not see exporting as key.”

Lord Davies, Minister for Trade and Investment, said that studies show most businesses overestimate the risks and underestimate the benefits of exporting.

The Minister added: “It is vital we give British businesses world class support to make the most of global opportunities and increase their activity in overseas markets.

“UK Trade and Investment’s local market experts helped 20,700 businesses generate £3.6 billion last year. Whether it’s our Passport to Export scheme or helping companies attend an overseas conference or exhibition, UK Trade and Investment can help companies grow their international business.”