UK businesses sold over £300m worth of holiday exports around the world in 2016, according to new figures, and the government has encouraged domestic brands to seize the demand for British swimwear, sunglasses and ice cream.
Official HMRC figures indicate that the value of holiday exports reached £302m in 2016. Sunglasses were the biggest global hit for British retailers, amounting to £160m.
Meanwhile, UK swimwear saw sales reach £93m, with a host of new brands such as Arabella London making their mark on the global stage.
Sales of £16m put British ice cream third in the most successful holiday exports. Flip flops were another hit for UK brands, reaching sales of £8m.
Commenting on the potential of Britain’s holiday exports, government trade secretary Liam Fox reiterated the government’s commitment to strengthening its global trading partnerships.
“From ice-cream to swimwear, you can find UK holiday exports in travel destinations around the world.
“Last year alone, more than £300m worth of these goods have been sold to shoppers across the globe showing increasing demand for home-grown summer essentials,” Fox said in a statement.
Despite the growing value of holiday items, recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested UK trade was struggling.
Between May and June 2017, the gap between UK imports and exports widened by £2bn to reach £4.6bn, according to ONS data, with falling exports driving the deficit.
The Labour Party’s shadow international trade secretary, Barry Gardiner, claimed Fox was diverting attention from an overall decline in exporting performance.
“Celebrating the success of British ice cream, sunglasses and swimwear is all very well, but the truth is that the UK is a net importer of all those products.
“The real irony is that our major trading partners for all of these ‘holiday goods’ are European countries such as Italy, Germany, Ireland, France and Belgium.”
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats’ Brexit spokesperson, Tom Brake, called the figures “laughably biased”.
“Despite Liam Fox’s attempts to paint a positive picture, the country’s economic outlook is looking increasingly bleak because of the huge uncertainty being caused by Brexit,” he said in a statement.
Fox added: “As an international economic department, we are supporting British business to take advantage of the growing global markets after we leave the EU and design a trade relationship in Britain’s national interest.
“There has never been a better time for our dynamic and innovative businesses to export their goods and services abroad.”
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