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UK missing out on billions as small firms fail to take sales overseas

Jack Palmer
TANZANIA-SINGAPORE-SHIPPING
UK SMEs are among the least likely to be exporting in Europe (Source: Getty)

The UK is missing out on billions because SMEs are not fulfilling their exporting potential, research out today has found.

Less than a fifth of SMEs presently export compared with over 40 per cent of large businesses, resulting in £141bn in missed revenue, according to the report commissioned by World First and carried out by the Centre for Economics and Business Research.

According to the report, a typical exporting SME increased their revenue by £287,000 over the last year, with one in 10 (nine per cent) businesses saying that their exports alone had boosted their profits by more than 20 per cent.

Read more: Why we’re backing Britain’s resilient and optimistic small businesses

Despite the benefits from exporting, the report also noted numerous problems facing SMEs. Language was identified as the biggest obstacle for exporting to the South America and Asia-Pacific regions, while culture was the biggest barrier for exporters wanting to enter Africa and the Middle East.

When questioned on the impact of Brexit on their ability to export, 42 per cent of SMEs said it would hinder them compared with 19 per cent who saw it as an advantage. A third (35 per cent) said it would make no difference.

World First chief executive and co-founder, Jonathan Quin, noted "the value of the export opportunity to the UK economy is enormous", adding "SMEs need much more inspiration and support to seize the growth opportunities that exist in global markets".

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The UK ranks in the bottom five for SME exporters across all European economies, someway behind Germany, the EU's leading exporter.

The report will officially be launched at the THINK GLOBAL 2016, an inaugural summit by World First, concentrating on the opportunities and barriers to international trade. The report has also been released to coincide with the Conservative party conference, with export and trade are expect to be two key topics on the agenda.

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