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10% of UK SMEs now exporting


New figures from the Office for National Statistics has shown the number of exporting UK SMEs increased by 6.6% in 2017 compared to the year before.

Part of the Annual Business Survey, figures showed an increase in total exports to £637bn in September – an increase of 4.4% compared to the year previous, highlighting an increasing demand for British goods and services worldwide.

Just under 10% of all UK SMEs are now exporting (232,000) alongside 41.7% of large businesses (3,500).

But it’s not just hungry, outward-looking start-ups that are breaking into the global market. Established firms over 10-years in trading have also begun exporting more, up over 10% to 115,300.

Of the figures, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox said: “Today’s news is further evidence that the high-quality goods and services produced by British businesses are selling all over the world.

“As an international economic department, when my Ministerial team and I travel abroad, we see first hand the unprecedented demand for British products, and the results of the Annual Business Survey show that we are responding to the demand.

“Our Export Strategy sets out an offer to every business that has the ambition to start exporting or increase their existing operation, as we look to move exports as a percentage of GDP from 30% to 35%.”

The total number of UK businesses exporting stands at 340,500 – 14.3% of all businesses outside of the financial economy – up 14% on 2016 estimates.

Talk on potential free trade agreements with the US and Australia will also give a boost to the 36,000 and 15,000 respectively exporting goods to each country.

Increasingly international outlook for new firms

So much Brexit talk and business reaction to the current happenings in Parliament and deals from Brussels means we haven’t really written too much about the export market in general over the last few weeks, so it’s great to see that even throughout the turbulent Brexit process that businesses have been ever-broadening their horizons.

What appears clear in the data from the ONS is how new businesses, fledgeling start-ups and those with less than two years of trading under their belts, are increasingly global-facing in their initial approach.

A near 20% increase in new firms exporting compared to 2016 is a significant jump and highlights the export opportunities being explored by UK start-ups, as well as how the international marketplace is the target market for businesses from the get-go.

And, Brexit aside, there’s a fair argument to say that exporting has never been more accessible. Ever-improving business management, communications and operations technology and the strength of the ‘Made in Britain’ badge makes it easier than ever to both successfully enter and operate in foreign markets.

Read more: How to make your first £1m in export sales

The increasing amount of information available about exporting products and services abroad will also give confidence to heads of new firms that they can enter the global stage from the off, whilst those looking for experienced, specialist support can seek out the likes of Go Exporting to help with both export strategy, market entry and all the rules, tariffs and regulations.

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