New research has suggested that British businesses are more optimistic about trading with the EU than last year, despite recent stumbling blocks surrounding Brexit.
The survey, conducted annually by OFX, found that 62% of 500 business owners felt confident about doing business outside of the UK, with 46% of SMEs saying Brexit had no effect on their desire to grow through exports in the future.
Just 15% said they were more cautious about international trade.
And it’s not just a thought or feeling, the real-life figures support what SMEs are saying:
47% increase in overseas sales since last year
Average international revenues for businesses top £50,000
21% increase in foreign cash transfers in last year from British SMEs
Perhaps the most surprising stats from the research was that the Eurozone is still the preferred trading block for local businesses, despite the slow progress and uncertainty over Brexit negotiations.
45% of those polled said Western Europe is their favoured market, boosted on last year by the securing of a Brexit transition deal to help firms plan ahead in the short to medium term.
And what about US trade after the introduction of Trump’s tariffs? Interest in exporting into our American friends has plummeted, down 26% compared to last year to 36%.
Opinion was split on the value of and optimism towards Commonwealth trade in the future.
FX research director at OFX, Jake Trask said that: “More than a year after Article 50 was triggered, small businesses have learnt to live with Brexit uncertainty, and refuse to let it limit their European ambitions.
“Despite the slow progress of Brexit negotiations, businesses are increasingly optimistic about trade with Western Europe – suggesting a desire to keep calm and carry on with international business, along with a quiet optimism that all will be well.”
What businesses outside of the capital say they need most is international trade consultancy. 50% of companies in Wales said there wasn’t enough export support, whilst only 40% of businesses in Scotland said they felt confident about selling overseas.
But with demand for the British brand so high on the continent, and across the world, small businesses around the UK have so much growth potential if they can bridge the gap between UK-base and international customer.
One growing area in which SMEs are succeeding in this area is e-commerce, with many local firms selling fashion, homewares and software across the world.
One such small firm, menswear brand Tails, does just that. Co-director Joshua Williams noted that: “Today, we make almost all our sales online, with more than half our customers based outside the UK. Local heritage and family history are both central to our brand, and we’re lucky that the internet has made it possible to grow our business abroad without losing our Welsh roots.
“We have sometimes had to travel for specialist guidance, but it’s a minor inconvenience when compared to the huge advantages and quality of life we gain by running our business in Penarth.”
British businesses should leverage their unique heritage and get out there into the world to seek growth opportunities. 53% of local exporting firms say that their ‘Britishness’ is a valuable selling point on the international stage, especially within US, New Zealand, Australian and Russian markets.