12 November 2014

SMEs missing out by not exporting

36% of UK small and medium sized enterprises are not interested in exporting, but those who do, are more likely to be a succeed.

This week is Export Week, with events taking place across the country to help companies see the possibilities of exporting their products to other countries.

Export interest varies regionally

To coincide with Export Week, a survey was carried for KPMG of more than 1,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the UK. 36% of the respondents said they were not interested in exporting.This also varied regionally:

  • 47% in the north east are uninterested
  • 30% in the West Midlands have no interest
  • Only one in five London companies are not interested

The main barriers were the complexity of legal regimes, not having adequate networks abroad and a lack of tax incentives. However, according to data from the CBI, companies are 11% more likely to succeed if they export. Therefore, it's worth looking at how to overcome these obstacles. 

The trend across Europe

The European SME Exporting Insights survey sought the views of more than 8,000 SMES across seven European countries. It found that SMEs in UK and Germany were most optimistic on the benefits of exporting and that the UK, along with Belgium and the Netherlands are the most advanced exporters.

The top determinants for exporting success were the quality of their products and services (97%), the strength of customer relationships (94%), Logistics (92%) and pricing (91%). The majority of UK and German SMEs also stated that lower costs than their competitors were also important for exporting success.

Other key findings from the research:

  • In the UK only 12% of our SMEs export. Belgium has the highest proportion of SMEs that export (16%) with Germany and Italy close behind on 14%.
  • Larger businesses are more likely to export. In the UK, 9% of microbusiness, 19th of small businesses and 29% of medium sized businesses export.
  • The top export destinations were other European countries followed by the United States, China and Canada.
  • Exporting is seen as more of a ‘big step’ in the UK than it is for many other European countries, perhaps because we’re an island.
  • In all countries surveyed, the main concern was the risk of their goods being damaged or getting lost.

For more information, read the full report.

Support to export