Growth in exports slows as orders point to a tough end of the year

 
Julian Harris
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THE GROWTH in exports from UK-based companies has slowed, a business survey revealed this morning, with exporters facing a tough end to the year.

Exporters received fewer orders than sales in the third quarter of the year, suggesting a further slowing of business in the final three months of 2011.

“The UK’s exporters are still performing well,” said John Longworth of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), which conducted the survey alongside DHL. “However, uncertainty around the UK’s recovery combined with the Eurozone crisis means that growth has slowed in the last quarter,” he added.

“Order books have weakened, confidence in increasing turnover has softened and exporters’ desire to expand workforces is muted.”

Exporting firms are reluctant to take on new staff, the report found. And roughly one fifth (19 per cent) of respondents said they would cut headcount in the final quarter of the year.

UK goods exports were up three per cent in the third quarter, compared to both the previous quarter and the same time last year. However, the proportion of firms reporting an increase in orders (35 per cent) was at its lowest for two years.

Nearly a quarter of firms (24 per cent) experienced a fall in orders – double the proportion at the beginning of the year, when just 12 per cent of exporters said that orders were down.

“Steps must be taken to support those looking to target overseas markets, particularly SMEs, who are less able to ride the trends of the economic cycle than their larger counterparts,” said DHL’s Phil Couchman.