SME Exporters Treading Water

  • BCC’s Trade Confidence Outlook sees no improvement in Q3 of 2023 as half of all SME exporters (49%) saw no change in overseas sales, and a quarter (25%) reported a decrease.
  • Just over a quarter of exporting SME businesses (26%) saw their overseas sales increase in the quarter.
  • It is almost five years (Q4 2018) since the proportion of businesses reporting increased sales was higher than 30%.

The Trade Confidence Outlook, conducted by the BCC’s Insights Unit, is a survey of more than 2,000 UK SME exporters. It has revealed exports continue to languish for many of these businesses as the global economy remains under pressure.

The UK’s picture on exports has been broadly static since the pandemic, with the number of SMEs reporting decreased sales now regularly 10 percentage points higher than in 2017/18.

The proportion of all businesses surveyed reporting decreased sales began to worsen in the run up to Brexit and has remained stubbornly higher ever since.

The situation is most volatile for SME manufacturers, with 28% reporting a decrease in exports, 27% an increase, and 45% no change.

This compares to SME services exporters where 23% saw a decrease, 26% an increase and 51% remained constant.

Cumbria Chamber Managing Director, Suzanne Caldwell said:

“The fact that UK exports have remained constant since the pandemic is cause for concern.  For businesses in the UK to thrive and for the UK to remain one of the world’s leading economies, we need to sell more goods and services internationally.

Over the past few years, various factors such as the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, Brexit and global economic headwinds have made exporting more difficult for businesses.

To address these challenges, we must leverage our strengths as an exporter. Here in Cumbria we have world-leading engineering businesses who export manufactured goods internationally. Like the rest of the UK we also have a strong services sector, whose expertise is in demand around the world, as well as a thriving food & drink sector, tourism, the list goes on…

Collaboration between businesses and the government is essential to establish a framework that capitalises on these advantages, ensuring the UK’s continued presence at the global economic table while facilitating incentives for our exports abroad.

Lastly, we must look at ways of improving our trade relations with the EU. Many businesses have voiced frustrations regarding the complexity and costs associated with trading with the EU, surpassing those encountered elsewhere.”

© Cumbria Chamber of Commerce