Insurance · 3 January 2017

Exporting stagnant despite wide government promotion

A quarter of exporters plan to grow capacity this year, compared with 33 per cent two years ago.

The number of UK businesses exporting has not changed in the last two years, according to a leading business association.

New research from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) has revealed that just 53 per cent of firms in Britain currently export – a figure that’s unchanged since 2014. In addition, as few as 5 per cent of smaller companies have considered entering overseas markets throughout the two-year period.

The proportion of UK firms already exporting, that intend to enter another foreign market in the next 12 months, has declined. According to the ICAEW, 25 per cent of exporters intend to grow export capacity in 2017, compared with 33 per cent two years ago.

Of the country’s non-exporting companies, nearly all of them have no plan to start exporting in this year. Some 96 per cent of business decision makers surveyed said they didn’t have any plans to sell overseas in 2017.

The research found that only 1 per cent of all UK businesses intend to start exporting in the next 12 months, while a further 1 per cent are considering such a move.

There is seemingly little difference between smaller firms and larger corporations in terms of a desire to export. The most common reason for choosing not to export, cited by 41 per cent of non-exporting businesses of all sizes, was that that they had a sufficient market in the UK.

The news will worry the government, which has invested heavily into an advertising campaign in recent years, encouraging businesses of all sizes to consider exporting in order to reach its £1 trillion export target by 2020.

According to the research, less than a fifth of business owners looking to expand into overseas markets would use the government for relevant information or advice, suggesting a government failure to properly promote exporting.

Director of business at the ICAEW, Stephen Ibbotson, said in a statement: “Despite a five year, multimillion pound campaign, this research shows the government is failing to encourage businesses to export goods internationally.

“Some of the money from the Department for International Trade should be funneled into directly incentivising business into export,” he added.

Ibbotson suggested one incentive could be a voucher scheme for companies researching and developing in overseas markets. He claimed this sort of measure would be vital in the year ahead, as investment and business confidence in the UK is likely to remain low.

Ibbotson added: “In a post-Brexit world it’s important that exporting is incentivised. The worry is for those company owners who believe they have enough of a market in the UK, so don’t export, as weaker domestic demand is expected in 2017.”

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Fred Heritage is deputy editor at Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent and an MA in international conflict from Kings College London. He previously worked as a reporter at Global Trade Review magazine.


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