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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Ian Wilson

Small businesses see opportunity in overseas trade


DHL Express UK is a Business Reporter client.

In the business community, it’s often SMEs who suffer the most in a challenging economy – from rising energy prices, to interest rates, to lower consumer spending. Despite this, these smaller businesses are showing incredible resilience and adaptability in the face of adversity.

We recently conducted research[1] among the UK’s small businesses, which revealed that they are increasingly turning to international markets as a way of riding out tough economic circumstances at home. But despite the driver for international growth being one of necessity, 83 per cent of exporters are feeling confident about it.

Given that international expansion is a way of driving long-term growth under any economic conditions, it’s really encouraging to see small businesses having the gumption and confidence to expand their reach now and set themselves up for even greater growth in more prosperous times.

This appetite for international growth means that for UK business, trade deals have taken on new significance, with agreements offering a smoother path for SMEs looking to diversify their revenue streams and compete globally. Of the SMEs aware of the UK’s new Free Trade Agreements such as those with Singapore and Australia, over half are planning to grow exports in these markets, which should hopefully motivate policymakers to keep pushing for more deals that can open up opportunities further and wider.

Despite the growing confidence among small business exporters, there’s no denying that some challenges remain, including relatively low awareness of the trade agreements that are in place, gaining the knowledge to navigate the regulations and customs of other markets, and undertaking the paperwork and logistics required to export. However, many of these issues can be reduced or removed by working with an expert logistics provider.

As the UK continues to deal with volatile economic forces and the resulting changes in consumer behaviour, business leaders should continue to capitalise on the opportunities that come with exporting internationally and set out on a trajectory toward sustainable global growth. This strategic shift will not just be a prudent business move, but a testament to their resilience in an ever-evolving economic market. And with businesses taking control of their destiny, the future looks positive for the UK economy and its vital SMEs even in the most uncertain of times.

[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1030 decision makers. Of this, 235 were exporters, currently exporting outside of the UK. Fieldwork was undertaken between 7-14 August 2023. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of British business size and region.

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