A new report focusing on the barriers and opportunities facing SMEs looking to export will be launched by the FSB today. ‘Destination Export: The small business export landscape’ looks at what small businesses are doing to access export markets, and covers what government currently does – and should do in the future.
The report highlights the number of small firms that export has remained static for several years at around 20%. “One of the key findings of this report is that the number of small businesses currently exporting is matched by those that would consider exporting (21%).
“This points to the huge potential to double the number of small business exporters,” the FSB said. “In order to tap into this potential, the Government, the private sector, the finance industry and business associations including FSB, must now focus on providing effective targeted and tailored support.”
The report is the latest in a long line of initiatives aimed at helping SMEs access export markets. Business secretary Sajid Javid recently called the low numbers of exporters ‘a huge missed opportunity,”
‘Support must cater to a wide range of export needs’
Martin McTague, FSB National Policy Director, said: “Small businesses that export are more likely to survive, grow and innovate. But in addition to more traditional barriers such as language and foreign exchange, businesses are having to deal with a rapidly changing export landscape and the advantages and challenges brought about by e-commerce. Any support must be designed with this in mind and should be able to cater to a wide range of export needs, both for those currently exporting and for those considering doing so.”
The importance of well targeted government support is a cornerstone of the new report. Commenting that ‘current Government-backed support, particularly UKTI services, have made some headway with exporters,’ the survey showed that of those who accessed export support, over a third (37%) used support provided by Government.
However, a key recommendation of the report focuses on expanding the UKTI website to help SMEs looking to sell overseas. The current Exporting is Great website allows UK businesses to search for export opportunities but FSB says there is “Potential to create an online platform allowing businesses to show their wares to overseas markets and increase their visibility.”
Naturally the recent EU referendum result has been a major influence on the report, something McTague admits. “FSB has clearly and consistently called for clarity on what the UK’s exit from the EU means for business, with particular emphasis on access to the single market and the free movement of people and trade. The majority of FSB members export to the single market with provides access to 500 million potential consumers, more than 26 million businesses and is worth around £9 trillion.”
The report suggests that while Brexit will hit SMEs, the emergence of new growing markets may offer a good opportunity to grow.