No progress in government export campaign, says ICAEW

The government need to do more to support SMEs post Brexit and encourage businesses to sell and export overseas.

The number of businesses exporting has not changed in the last two years, according to research by ICAEW. Despite a £1 trillion export target and advertising campaign by government, only 53 per cent of businesses are exporting – no change from 2014 – and nearly all (96 per cent) of non-exporters have no plans to sell overseas in the next 12 months.

The USA and Europe remain the top export destinations and for nearly a third of exporters (30 per cent), more than half their turnover comes from trading overseas, highlighting the importance of global markets.

This is even more significant with weaker domestic demand, a sharp decline in sterling and rise in input prices expected, indicating that export growth will overtake domestic sales in 2017. Fewer exporters are however planning to enter new markets in the next 12 months, down from 33 per cent two years ago to 25 per cent in 2016.

Nearly all of those businesses currently not exporting have no plans to do so (96 per cent) and this has also not changed since 2014. There is no difference between SMEs and large companies plans, with the most cited reason that they have a sufficient market in the UK (41 per cent). Worryingly for government, only 1 per cent of businesses plan to start exporting in the next 12 months while an additional 1 per cent are considering it while only 5 per cent of SMEs have started exporting in the last two years.

Of those who are looking to expand overseas less than a fifth of exporters would use government departments which promote international trade, such as the department for international trade, for information and advice.

ICAEW director of business, Stephen Ibbotson, comments, ‘This research illustrates that government is failing to encourage businesses to export goods internationally, despite a five year, multi-million pound government campaign.

‘In a post-Brexit world where business confidence is low and investment sluggish, it’s important that exporting is incentivised. The worry is for those companies who believe they have enough of a market in the UK, so don’t export, as weaker domestic demand is expected in 2017.’

He concludes, ‘The government should look at funnelling some of the money from the department for international trade into directly incentivising business into export. One example could be , or introducing a voucher scheme for companies researching and developing in overseas markets.’

Further reading on export opportunities

Owen Gough, SmallBusiness UK

Owen Gough

Owen was a reporter for Bonhill Group plc writing across the and titles before moving on to be a Digital Technology reporter for the

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