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Exports have become a big talking point in business, economic and political circles over the past five years. Key economists, like the Bank of England governor Mark Carney, have called on the government to boost British exports in order to help rebalance the economy.
During the last Parliament, Chancellor George Osborne set the ambitious target of doubling the value of UK exports to £1 trillion by 2020. But what is the current state of the British export market?
We caught up with Martin Davidian, managing director of sales in the UK North and Ireland at FedEx Express, to find out.
“Well it’s really great news as far as we’re concerned," Martin said.
"We [FedEx] recently commissioned a report, a ‘UK export epicentre’ report, which shows that exports are growing and it’s good news for the capital, but not just the capital, our regional cities are also beginning to emerge, punching well above their weight, challenging for export and customs."
But not everything is great as it would seem. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are calling out for greater support.
Mr Davidian explained: "However a third of SMEs also told us that they need help to access the export markets and the opportunities, and at FedEx we are committed to providing that help providing access and enabling these businesses to really take advantage of the export opportunities that are out there for them."
Why is it so important for British SMEs to export?
"Well, the UK only represents 0.8% of the world’s population, so those businesses who are not currently exporting are missing out on the opportunity of reaching that other 99.2% of the world’s population. Entrepreneurs in the UK really need to take advantage of ‘Brand Britain’, ‘Brand Britain’ is seen as a very strong brand worldwide.
"FedEx has had 30 years of experience of seeing companies take advantage of market trends, and those companies who have exported have seen their businesses grow and their profits improve."
Which are the most popular export markets for British SMEs and why?
"In the survey results, we saw over two thirds of SMEs chose a European country as their first country to start to export to, and we can see that this is because of a number of reasons: Firstly, there is a common business language, English. Secondly, it is seen as the easiest of markets to access, there is also quite a lot of businesses with family ties across Europe. And they’ve also seen other British businesses succeed by starting to export into Europe."
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are considering going international?
"I would say to entrepreneurs that while the European market looks the easiest one to enter, they shouldn’t be put off by distance, there are real opportunities out there in the world. For example, we work with a company Louden Chocolates, they’re a husband and wife team in Leeds, they took advice from us and now they’re accessing markets in China and Japan."