A quarter of small business owners saw an uplift in overseas interest for UK products in the last year, as new research reveals the growing strength of the Made in Britain brand.
The study, by online auction giant eBay, confirmed the international perception of British-made goods as high quality, with locally-sourced and hand-made products becoming a winning formula for many small exporters.
Positive associations around national institutions, such as the BBC and the Royal Family, also continued to boost the reputation of UK businesses abroad.
According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the UK exported £550bn in goods and services in 2016. On eBay’s platform, 93 per cent of 200,000 UK sellers are currently trading with an average 20 different countries.
Renewed enthusiasm for hand-crafted British products injected optimism into the small business community, with one in ten small business owners planning to enter new markets in 2017.
After one in four respondents cited greater export sales since the EU referendum in June 2016, the findings also put to bed fears that the Brexit vote would harm the reputation of “Brand Britain”.
Commenting on the current strength of British exports, Gareth Jones, eBay UK marketing director, said depreciation of the pound had benefitted entrepreneurs in the last 12 months.
“The UK is going through a period of change that has led to fears that our image abroad could be harmed. But the business fundamentals of ‘Brand Britain’ remain strong: trusted, quality products and good customer service. Small businesses are benefiting from this association and boosting their export plans to take advantage.
“This is good news for the economy and for eBay in the UK, which hosts over 200,000 of these enterprises, giving access to a global customer base of over 164m people.”
However, despite growing exporting value for Made in Britain, a third of respondents believed Britain’s formal exit from the EU would lead to greater economic protectionism with the potential to stifle sales.
eBay’s Business Index showed which categories had been most lucrative for sellers in the past year, with small fashion brands finding the most success.
The most popular British items for overseas customers
- Clothes, shoes and accessories
- Vehicle parts
- Mobile phones and communication
- Home, furniture and DIY
- Sporting good
- Computers and tablets
- Office and industrial
- Jewellery and watches
- Health and beauty
The index also revealed the top five export markets for British goods on eBay
- United States
One entrepreneur who found great success through eBay’s market was Sally Steel, founder of craft business Poppy and Petal.
Her handmade cushions and bags brand showcase the “quality and humour” of British produce, and Steel said she puts a central focus on where fabrics are sourced from.
She advised fellow business owners to emphasise the “Britishness” of their brand, and to adapt sales and customer service methods to the culture of where you are selling to.
“In the US for example, we’ve really jumped on the fad of Bridesmaid proposal parties, where brides will contact me on eBay and we’d create bespoke wedding tote bags, or socks, most of which include a personal message to those the bride would like be her bridesmaids.
“We’re seeing more and more demand for this kind of customisation, and therefore a reliance on quality service and design,” she said.
Our FedEx expert advised small business owners how to capitalise on Made in Britain
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