June 13, 2014 - Rachel Miller
Exports are the biggest driver of business growth for nearly one fifth of UK SMEs and more than half are already exporting, according to research commissioned by software provider Exact.
The survey of 453 SME leaders found that 54% of SMEs now sell products or services abroad. It found that exporting is the biggest growth area for 19% of the UK's SMEs, and 68% of those who currently export saw export sales increase in 2013 over the previous year. For 18%, exports now account for over half their sales.
The survey suggests that having a specific export strategy can pay dividends. Out of those SMEs that saw export figures grow last year, 74% had business plans in place. For those who did not have a business plan, only 53% saw exports grow last year.
Lucy Fox, general manager cloud solutions at Exact, said: "Selling to new markets can help grow revenue streams and generate new jobs, as well as diversify risk in case of adverse economic conditions. If proof of these benefits was needed, a recent CBI survey shows SMEs who export are 11% more likely to survive than those that don't."
The survey shows Europe is still the biggest export market among UK SMEs, followed by the USA and then the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China).
The results of a new poll released this week by Freelancer.co.uk show a similar picture. It found that 54% of small businesses say they intend to sell more products and services overseas in 2014. Of those, 62% said they believe that the ability to trade online means they can access larger markets while spending less money to do so.
Despite these results, disappointing trade figures released this week by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show there is more to do. David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: "The UK still has a long way to go before it is fulfilling its true potential as a key player in international trade. It is clear that more support is still needed to help UK businesses."
Exporting is also a core theme at this year's International Festival for Business (IFB). John Longworth, BCC director general, said: "What really sets the IFB apart from other festivals are the representatives who will be there in person from overseas markets, such as suppliers and investors. This is exactly the kind of practical support that can really help businesses take that first step towards exporting."