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More than half of Britain’s small and medium businesses are exporters

58% of small businesses say they require additional support from government and trade bodies to break into international markets

More than half of the UK’s small and medium-sized businesses are currently exporting, according to the second annual FedEx Great British Export Report of 1,000 business owners.

The study has revealed that 53% of all Britain’s small businesses currently export, while 72% believe their international revenues will increase in the next five years.

The report also found that the average small business in the UK exports £553,000 a year to Europe and imports £535,000 – an average net surplus of £18,000 for exporters. They also export on average £714,000 outside of Europe and import just £410,000, resulting in an average net surplus of £304,000 for global exports.

In the last year, the number of businesses exporting at least 20 shipments a month to Europe has increased from 40% to 69%. Additionally, the figure for businesses that exported within Europe, exporting more than £5,000 per month on average, has risen from 43% in 2014 to 64% this year.

It was also revealed that the US, Australia and China are the most challenging markets to enter, with 58% of respondents saying they needed more support from government or trade bodies to go global.

The UK’s small and medium businesses highlighted costs, losing money in currency exchange and worries about not being paid as the main barriers to exporting, with just one in five saying they considered reaching new markets as “critical to success”.

While there is an increasing trend towards exporting farther afield, most small firms continue to export to English-speaking countries or the nearest, rather than high-growth markets. Almost all (96%) of those businesses that export, export to Europe, 35% to the US, just 4% to Brazil and far fewer export to fast growing economies such as Mexico and Indonesia.

Trevor Hoyle, vice president at Northern Europe Operations, FedEx Express, commented: “British small and medium-sized businesses are a driving force in improving the economy. The report shows that they recognise how lucrative exporting can be for their business and as result more are going global, actively helping to reduce the deficit.

“The businessess we help to go global are talking to us with a real sense of positivity and they understand there’s a whole world of customers out there to tap into.”

Henry Williams
Henry Williams

Henry has been writing for since 2015, covering everything from business finance and web builders to tax and red tape. He’s also contributed to many of our industry-renowned annual indexes, including Startups 100 and Young Guns, and created a number of the site’s popular how to guides. Before joining the team, he reviewed films for a culture website, and still harbours ambitions of being a screenwriter.


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