Regardless of the outcome of the EU Referendum, the campaigning from both sides has created much debate around Britain’s trade relationship with Europe and perhaps the rest of the world.
For some it has, or ought to have, kindled some interest in the potential for developing or increasing sales from the UK of their goods and services. Certainly with only 13% of Greater Lincolnshire businesses exporting and the value of business exports from the area valued at £34m there must be scope for us to generate increased sales from overseas.
The importance of export to the UK economy cannot be emphasised enough. Overseas trade is a vital factor in closing the UK productivity gap with other major developed economies as well as re-balancing our own economy. The government has a target to increase the value of UK exports to £1 trillion by 2020 and to increase the number of exporting businesses by an additional 100,000.
As the barriers to international trade have decreased and the ability to achieve overseas success is now possible for both small and large businesses, thanks to improvements in logistics, marketing and technology, the UK and Lincolnshire are now seeing a growing number of enterprises generating sales overseas, not just from producers and manufacturers but also from the service sector. The demand for UK products and services that have strong brands, are innovative and are well designed and built is as strong as ever.
The benefits of developing overseas business though are all too commonly overlooked perhaps in the main due to a fear of the unknown. The key benefits for a business include:
- The ability to increase sales and profits
- The ability to spread risk and reduce reliance on domestic markets
- The ability, for more seasonal businesses, to reduce the peak and troughs in turnover
- The ability to grow your knowledge
- The opportunity to develop new processes and to enhance your competitive advantage
- The chance to realise/exploit economies of scale
- The chance to take up spare capacity/slack in the business
- The opportunity to develop and motivate existing staff, whilst at the same time attract new recruits
- The potential to safeguard existing business
- The realisation that selling overseas can be easier than selling back home and that perhaps it is more interesting and exciting
Benefits aside, yes there are risks that need to be considered and managed for anyone looking to or developing overseas trade – but you are not on your own. Support is out there and it is certainly worth engaging with UKTI, the government backed UK Trade and Investment organisation which, with their on the ground International Trade Advisers, offer support and guidance.
Finally, perhaps as a county, we don’t flag wave our export successes. To try and address this and to recognise the many enterprises from across Greater Lincolnshire we are once again proud to be sponsoring the Lincolnshire Exporter of the Year Award at the Lincolnshire Business Awards in October. We would love to hear from all those businesses who are exporting about the exciting things they are doing and we would encourage you to enter the awards.
Hopefully by acknowledging the success of those currently exporting and by encouraging new exporters we can see an increase in the number of Greater Lincolnshire businesses exporting as well as the overall value of international sales.