France and Germany followed behind the US, with 53 per cent and 51 per cent of UK SMEs exporting to these countries respectively. While the top ten export countries are dominated by Britain’s European neighbours, Canada (7th) and Australia (10th) also feature on the UK’s top ten SME export map in the Barclays research.
Overall, Europe is the most popular continent UK SMEs export to, followed by North America. Asia and the Middle East are joint third place. Oceania, Africa and Latin America appear at the bottom of the export list.
Steve Childs, Head of International at Barclays Business commented: “Thinking about spreading your business’s wings to explore overseas trading opportunities can seem a daunting task on top of usual day to day responsibilities involved in running a business. But the case for exporting is strong– the growth opportunities speak for themselves. It is important to remember that there are a lot of resources that SMEs can access in the early stages of being helped on their international journey.”
A third of SMEs who currently trade overseas reach a growth ceiling in the UK within the first three years of trading, which is an increase from just a quarter who said the same in 20132. Business growth is the top reason driving SMEs to export. The research then went on to find this is achieved with SMEs that export attributing an average of 25 per cent of their growth last year to overseas trade opportunities. When asked, a third would have even liked to have started exporting sooner.
Over one in five of the UK SMEs surveyed who do not currently export have plans to do so in the future, and one in seven are looking to doing so in the next two years. Looking at the most useful factors in generating business when starting to export goods and services overseas, in addition to traditional agents and experts, the power of digital and access to online tools are a clear benefit to small businesses:
Steve Childs continued: “What is evident is that the world of digital has brought export markets closer to home for small businesses – being able to take payments online as well as using the digital channels to market open up opportunities for businesses that may have previously been harder to take up. We see a number of businesses export almost as soon as they open, due to natural demand from overseas markets, online and through social media. Barclays offers its SME customers expert advice and free tools on how to build an international footprint as well as a range of different products and services that will help you to expand business to overseas markets.”