Insurance · 22 August 2018

Small businesses demand more from Liam Fox’s post-Brexit exporting strategy

Liam Fox
Liam Fox pledged to grow exports to 35% of UK GDP

After international trade secretary Liam Fox pledged to turn Britain into a “21st century exporting superpower” post-Brexit, the small business community called for greater financial support to fulfil its overseas potential.

In a speech intended to clarify the government’s post-Brexit strategy, Fox said he wanted to grow exports from 30% to 35% of UK GDP.

Exports of UK goods and services reached a record high of £620bn in 2017, helped by the declining value of sterling and unexpected global growth.

Fox told a business audience in London that UK firms were “superbly placed to capitalise on the rapid changes in the global economic environment”.

Responding to Fox’s announcement, Mike Cherry, chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), said the success of Britain’s economy depended on smaller exporters.

Cherry welcomed Fox’s GDP target, but raised concerns over “a lack of definitive, detailed interventions set out in the strategy”. Specifically, the need to offer financial and practical support to get small firms exporting.

“We welcome the emphasis on the Great.gov.uk platform, peer to peer learning and better joined-up support to allow small firms to get the help they need whoever they approach. But, we now need to see much more being done to encourage smaller businesses to access both new markets and business support,” Cherry said.

“Incentives like export vouchers and grants should be made available to small businesses to help them with upfront investment costs for things like translation services or additional market research. An assessment of financial incentives, including export vouchers, as mentioned in the strategy, is a step in the right direction, but we are fast running out of time.

“The clock is ticking.”

Cherry added: “If the government doesn’t act quickly and introduce financial incentives there is a risk the current uncertainty will have a serious and detrimental impact on the growth of small businesses.”

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“UK brands are held in high esteem”

While the FSB challenged Fox’s ambition, auction platform eBay praised the exporting strategy. Responding to Fox’s speech, Rob Hattrell, eBay UK vice president, said there was “huge demand” for British-designed and British-manufactured products.

“93% of the 200,000 British firms who operate on eBay.co.uk exported to five or more countries last year, many of them outside the EU, and this number continues to grow. These firms benefit from access to helpful tools and tailored advice from our seller team to help take their products into new markets.

Hattrell added: “We welcome the international trade secretary’s vision to make Britain a bigger exporting superpower by putting small businesses at the heart of its exporting strategy. They have the flexibility to respond to the changing markets of the future.”

4 eBay exporting tips

Hattrell offered new eBay users four exporting tips for establishing overseas sales from day one.

  1. Take advantage of cool Britannia

“The UK has an excellent reputation around the world when it comes to retail. UK brands and businesses are held in high esteem, so use this to your advantage. Make it clear where you’re based and capitalise on selling the best of British – for example, British fashion is in particular demand.”

  1. Streamline payment

“Distance is no object with globalised exporting, but if customers can’t pay for their goods easily, they won’t buy from you. Make sure you accept international payment methods such as credit cards and payment platforms like PayPal.”

  1. Be ship-shape

“Consumers are looking for speedy delivery, low cost, and reliable shipping services. eBay sellers can enroll for free into the Global Shipping Programme; international postage charges and any applicable customs charges are automatically shown on listings, and paid by buyers. Parcels can simply be posted to the UK Shipping Centre using your usual postage service along with a tracking code, and parcels can then be tracked by both buyer and seller.”

  1. Leverage language

“In the European market, language translation and local online platforms are key to engaging foreign audiences. eBay’s International Growth Programme, in partnership with translation service WebInterpret, is one way to translate listings into other languages.

While shared languages, such as the US, Australia and Canada make entering these markets easier, remember to consider how consumers abroad search for your products – replace colour with color, for example.”

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Praseeda Nair is the editorial director of Business Advice, and its sister publication for growing businesses, Real Business. She's an impassioned advocate for women in leadership, and likes to profile business owners, advisors and experts in the field of entrepreneurship and management.

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