Small firms missing export opportunities as only a quarter ‘internationally active’

Study reveals businesses which trade internationally three times more likely to grow

The UK’s small and medium-sized firms are missing out on lucrative export opportunities, as just a quarter currently trade internationally despite the current boom in exports, according to a new study.

The Great British Export Report, a study commissioned by international courier FedEx Express, found that firms which trade internationally are three times more likely to grow than those who do not.

Overall, just over a third of businesses said tapping international markets would be crucial to their success over the next year, but more than half (51.9%) of small and medium-sized firms surveyed said they would require more support to achieve international expansion.

Exports represent a key part of the government’s business strategy, with a target of £1tn of total exports by 2020 and an announcement in this year’s Budget that export lending to businesses is set to double to £3bn.

Whilst the report found that UK companies were starting to reap dividends from mature markets including the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, emerging markets such as China, Russia and India were cited as particularly challenging to enter.

Despite being the world’s second-largest economy, China occupied sixth spot in the list of top export markets, with just 15% of exporters targeting the region.

Despite small and medium-sized firms’ overall lack of international trade, those that do trade internationally were optimistic about the future, with 41% predicting that their activities will be mostly international in five years’ time.

Trevor Hoyle, vice president of FedEx Express UK & Ireland, commented: “This survey has picked up on some thought-provoking trends in business behaviour and attitudes.

“With three decades of experience in the UK, we’ve see first-hand how starting to export can have a revitalising impact on a business.

“Whilst there are challenges for some companies in doing business abroad, they can be overcome by having access to the right support, expertise and network.”

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