More SMEs see exports as primary growth avenue

Posted on 13 Jun 2014 by The Manufacturer

New SME research shows one in five now count exports as the most important growth driver for their business.

The study, commissioned by business and finance software company Exact, shows that SMEs are having increasing success in foreign markets and that more are looking to sell their products and services abroad in the near future.

Manufacturing SMEs are more mature exporters than similar sized companies in other sectors according to the study with 68% of responding manufacturers already exporting compared to 58% across the board.

While the most recent Federation of Small Businesses’ Index, showed that two thirds of the UK’s 4.8m SMEs are expecting growth in the coming year, Exact’s research shows that exports offer the greatest potential for delivering that growth for around 19% of companies across sectors.

Exact’s research is based on a survey of 453 SME leaders and show that SMEs who are already exporting are generally enjoying success. The study showed that 68% of SME exporters saw their international sales increase in 2013 compared to 2012.

For exporting SMEs, Exact’s survey showed that for over half, international sales now account for over 10% of total sales and for one in five they account for over 50%.

The survey also emphasized the importance of having a formal export strategy in order to reap benefits.

Out 53% of exporters who did not have formal export strategies reported growth in international sales.

Commenting on the findings, Lucy Fox, general manager Cloud Solutions at Exact, said: “While exporting is not an option for all, it does present huge opportunities for those who can do it.

“Just like tackling the domestic market, SMEs who are considering exporting their goods or services should plan for any international presence. They need to ensure they analyse their target marketplace and competitors thoroughly, that they understand the business and financial implications of selling overseas and set appropriate goals accordingly,” Ms Fox continued.

Exact’s survey shows Europe is still the biggest export market among UK SMEs with 79% targeting the EU.

The next largest market is the USA which is targeted by 40%, and then the BRIC countries, which are of particular interest to 24% of SME exporters.

For the manufacturing sector alone, the USA showed up as a particularly attractive market with 51% of those who took part in the survey exporting there.