Export opportunities being missed by small and medium sized businesses

30 July 2015

  • Attendees at Lloyds Bank roadshow events show that six out of ten UK small businesses are not trading internationally and over half have no plans to do so
  • A third of firms believe that understanding the regulatory environment is key to exporting success
  • A third  of businesses that export said that they expect to create up to ten jobs as a result of exporting

Small to medium sized businesses across the UK are missing out on growth opportunities offered by trading internationally, according to new research by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking.

Nearly two thirds (61 per cent) of over 400 attendees at the Lloyds Bank ‘Backing Your Ambition’ events, a series of roadshows held at 11 locations across the UK, said they are not currently exporting and more than half (52 per cent) have no plans to do so.

But almost one in three businesses (32 per cent) that are already exporting said trading abroad will enable them to create up to ten new, local jobs in the next two years.

More support needed for small firms looking to export

In order to overcome their initial fears and challenges, almost a third (29 per cent) believe that regulatory advice is essential to thrive in foreign markets while a quarter (25 per cent) said that strong financial support is key to exporting successfully. Lastly a fifth (20 per cent) of businesses said that market research expertise is also vital.

In spite of its recent instability, the Eurozone remains the biggest export target for small businesses, (27 per cent) but opportunities remain further afield as six per cent export to North America and Asia, while to the Middle East it is three per cent.

Gareth Oakley, Managing Director for SME Banking, Lloyds Banking Group, said: “British products and services have an undisputed reputation around the world, and it’s important that small and medium sized firms look to foreign markets for opportunities to grow, not just in Europe but globally.

“This research highlights the areas in which small businesses need the greatest support so that we can help propel them to the international stage. Through our partnership with UK Trade and Investment or our commitment to increase trade finance by 25 per cent this year, we are committed to helping businesses export. Seeking advice will help business owners overcome their initial fears and enable them to explore the opportunities further afield in growing markets.”

One Exeter-based entrepreneur Richard O’Connell, who spoke at the South West event in June, said that he never even dreamt of exporting when he first co-founded his business Bandvulc Tyres. The businessman now trades with a range of companies across the Eurozone, and is the sole supplier of tyres for waste vehicles to Munich and Hamburg councils.

He said: “In our experience, exporting hasn’t always been easy, but over the years we have gained a thorough understanding of our marketplace and now nearly a tenth of our business comes from trade with the Eurozone.

“The business community in Exeter is flourishing, but it is surprising that so many firms that aren’t taking advantage of the wealth of opportunities overseas. Reaching out to organisations who really understand the export landscape, such as UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) or your bank, can help companies gain the relevant information needed to begin exporting.”