Slow and steady wins the export race

Posted on 19 Dec 2014 by Jonny Williamson

CEO of DHL Express UK & Ireland, Phil Couchman discusses the opportunities available for British manufacturers to expand internationally and the schemes in place to help them make that leap.

Phil Couchman, CEO, DHL Express.
Phil Couchman, CEO, DHL Express.

Last month, DHL Express announced the findings of its quarterly Trade Confidence report with the British Chambers of Commerce, which looks at the exporting activity and business confidence of more than 2,300 exporting firms in the UK.

Despite results showing that the growth in export activity slowed in Q3 2014, it was interesting to note that confidence among UK businesses remains historically high.

I was pleased to see that more than half of businesses (59%) believe that their profitability will improve in the next 12 months, and the majority (75%) tried to recruit new staff in Q3,showing that businesses remain steadfast and confident about the future.

As manufacturers plan for the future, it is understandable that ongoing discussions about the UK’s position in the EU could create uncertainty, making them more cautious about their exporting plans.

Coupled with growth figures in the region at 1% less than expected for this year, it is crucial for UK manufacturers to research and explore new markets to seek out maximum export opportunities to boost sales.

There are fantastic opportunities for British manufacturers of all sizes to expand internationally, and there is a plethora of advice available to small businesses looking to export. There is huge demand for British products within and beyond Europe and with the right support, UK businesses can grow their business exponentially by expanding their customer base overseas.

The Government has already come a long way in helping UK based manufacturers to export overseas. Following its target made earlier in the year of doubling exports to £1tn by 2020, George Osborne committed a £45m package to help first time UK exporters in the Autumn Statement, with a particular focus on Africa, Asia and South America. These regions offer British manufacturers specific growth opportunities that are only set to continue in the coming years.

Independent bodies are also aiding businesses looking to export overseas. The UK Trade and Investment’s (UKTI) Overseas Market Introduction Service and the British Chambers of Commerce training services both offer independent and tailored advice to SMEs.

In November, the UKTI-led Export Week held a varied series of events all over the UK, aimed at both businesses starting their export journey and those looking to increase their international business.

DHL, too, has demonstrated its confidence and commitment to enterprise and export business in Britain by announcing a £156m investment in its infrastructure over the next two years to support Britain’s export market.

This investment allows increased capacity for express shipments and support for customers’ export growth ambitions. Implemented due to customer demand, the investment will drive a more efficient and sustainable supply chain for UK manufacturers.

With recent research highlighting that the majority of businesses expect to generate up to 50% of revenues internationally by 2019, it is clear that international trade is still seen as vital to SME’s long-term success.

The challenge for us all is to provide enough support and encouragement to enable small manufacturing firms to overcome any short-term uncertainties and grow into successful, international companies that drive the growth of the UK economy.