It may be a challenging time for the UK economy, but that’s not to say there aren’t lots of overseas trade opportunities out there for British businesses. We spoke to a panel of export experts to get their take on the year ahead…
John Cook is Sales Director at Fracino – the UK’s only manufacturer of cappuccino and espresso machines.
Memorable achievements in 2011: In recent years, Fracino have begun exporting to every continent. At the end of last year, Prime Minister David Cameron singled us out for praise in a speech on exporting and growth: he mentioned the fact the UK is even selling coffeemakers to the Italians (who know a thing or two about coffee).
Exports now account for 25% of our turnover and in recent months our expansion has stretched to markets in Mongolia, Bulgaria, Russia, Nepal and Indonesia. What’s more, each of our machines has a Union Jack on it – so we’re really championing the best of British!
2012 is the year: to make the most of a wealth of opportunities for businesses, especially with the Olympics just around the corner. It’ll be an exciting year for exporters too – it’s just a case of selling the right product, at the right price, to the right people. Our advice is to know your markets and do your research. Finding the right partner to boost your expansion in a particular country is key. Just make sure your website is easy to understand in the language native to your target market!
Sandra Strong is Managing Partner of Strong & Herd LLP – Manchester-based provider of import and export services
Last year’s international trade highlights: It’s been great to see more interest in the North West business community. We’ve played a prominent part in the regeneration of the NW Branch of the Institute of Export and we’re also working closely with organisations like UKTI to get businesses exporting.
2012 is the year: to be an exporter! The current drive is making exporting sexy again. At the moment, you’ve got around 20% of all manufacturers selling products overseas, but we really want to see an increase to 25%. In the Northwest, the aim is for another 1000 business – mainly SMEs – to ‘go global’. As Lord Green pointed out, the scale of the shift means more government support is needed.
With initiatives such as the British Business Club launching all the time, business need to keep an eye out for opportunities. Our advice is to stay plugged in to the activities, events and announcements of organisations like British Chambers of Commerce, IOE, UKTI, Business Link, and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. Get talking to others in the same boat – joining in with the international conversation on social media can be a great help!
Preferential trade agreements are also something businesses should look into. They can make your product cheaper to export to countries where an agreement is in place. Head over to the World Trade Organisation website for more details.
What does 2012 hold for UK business? The most obvious thing is the Olympics. The game will give London, and the UK as a whole, an opportunity to show the world what we’re made of!
However, too many small UK businesses are limiting themselves to national markets, perhaps because they don’t understand, or aren’t aware of, the demand for their products and services in other countries. There are lots of reasons why SMEs with ‘go global’ potential aren’t expanding overseas: from genuine financial limitations and inadequate support from the banking sector, to a lack of understanding when it comes to the local market and culture.
Many of these perceived obstacles are things that a local Chambers of Commerce can help with. But with the London games around the corner, more needs to be done to encourage companies to explore business opportunities overseas.
Lesley Batchelor is Director General at the Institute of Export
International trade highlights 2011: My personal highlight has been meeting some fantastic companies at the International Trade Awards. These are inspiring people who’ve excelled in spite of the challenges of a tough global climate.
2012 brings: a lot of unknowns. There’s little we can do about constant fluctuations in the Eurozone.
Exporters must keep going and learn how to mitigate some of the risks by researching the best and most secure ways of getting paid. They also need to seek out new markets to help grow, spread the risk and develop sustainable business models. The winners will be those who scour the world for market opportunities, whilst remaining flexible enough to adapt their offering.
Due to their sheer size, China, Brazil and India present some great opportunities. By understanding all the elements of international trade, from research to compliance, businesses can really capitalize on any breaks that crop up. My advice? Stick with it: find a good market, stay there – just make sure you have all your bases covered.
DHL will be here to support all your international export needs in 2012. Find out more by visiting dhlguide.co.uk