By Trevor Hoyle, Vice President Operations UK & Ireland, FedEx Express & FedEx UK Ltd

Since the government pledged to double the UK’s export market, aiming to reach the £1 trillion mark by 2020, the UK has seen significant growth. In order to reach this target, several efforts have been made to help businesses secure their trade in fast-growing, emerging economies. Yet, it seems additional support is still required to help British small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) “go global”.

Trading opportunities

To put the prospect of exporting in 2015 into context: the UK only accounts for 0.8% of global population. This means that UK businesses who, at present, do not export abroad are potentially missing out on reaching the remaining 99.2% of the world’s population.

With the UK recording the strongest export growth in Europe in recent years, the time is ripe for British businesses to capitalise on overseas opportunities. This year, British export growth is predicted to rise 2.7 percent. As a result, the UK is set to become the second fastest growing G7 economy this year (after the US), ahead of China, India and Canada.

The main trading partners for British businesses are some of the most established players in the market, such as the US, Germany, France and Ireland, with China and the United Arab Emirates also added to the list. Companies across the world appreciate quality British products and enjoy trading with British businesses. Everything from our cars to the EU, tweed jumpers to China and even mustard to Sudan and Nepal, an array of British heritage products have found new fans in surprising places.

Advantages of European Trade

We have recently conducted research through the UK Export Epicentre Report, which explores the exporting behaviour of SMEs across the UK, identifying key regional trends and variances with a specific focus on how British cities compare and contrast. The research looks at how and why British businesses explore international opportunities and the reasons behind the markets they choose. We focused on the countries SMEs opted to move into first and why – providing valuable insight for other businesses looking overseas.

Start European

When British businesses decide to export, deciding which market to enter first can be complex, however, our research reveals almost two thirds of British SMEs chose to enter a European market first. Initially, it could be presumed this is down to proximity, yet, our research has identified additional key “attributes” which combine to make Europe the currently preferred export market for British SMEs.

For instance, over half of UK SMEs cited sharing a common “business language” of English as a reason for choosing Europe as its first international market to explore. It seems being perceived as the least complicated market to enter is another positive reason, with 38% of UK SMEs pursuing European markets as a result. Family links to Europe were naturally an important decisive factor for a quarter of entrepreneurs and seeing other British businesses succeed in these markets was a final influencer with 24% following suite.

Currently 95% of UK SMEs who export are active in Europe and it’s clear to see why. When you factor in the support available and the success other brands are having in European markets, it seems prudent to follow in their footsteps and the right logistics provider can aid in this quest. The opportunities open to British SMEs in Europe should definitely not be overlooked… or delayed.