Jonathan Hindle, chairman of the BFC said: “I welcome the strategic approach that has been set out by the Department in the Export Strategy. The concerns identified are the same ones that the BFC has found again and again, and so I hope this strategy marks a step-change in providing solutions. The BFC supports the ambition to make exports 35% of GDP – while it’s always a risk for Government to put a number on targets, it hopefully means that action will be taken to meet it.”
International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox MP launched the Government’s Export Strategy on 21 August 2018, setting out how it will boost UK exports through better use of its overseas network, new online tools and building an extensive business to business network.
The strategy states that last year £620 billion of goods and services exported by British companies accounted for 30% of the UK’s GDP, representing a record high. However, the Department for International Trade estimates that 400,000 businesses believe they could export but do not. Fox set out the government’s long-term ambition to go further and increase total exports as a proportion of GDP to 35%.
The key elements of the strategy to support companies selling overseas are to:
- encourage and inspire more businesses to export
- inform businesses by providing information, advice and practical assistance on exporting
- connect UK businesses to overseas buyers, markets and each other
- ensure that businesses take full advantage of the £50 billion worth of export finance and insurance support from UK Export Finance
An industry-wide survey identified many of the issues the Department has now acknowledged. The survey found that 70% of companies which do not currently export have no plans to begin exporting in the next 12 months. While Brexit is inspiring companies to look to new exporting markets, such as America, Africa and India, the Department for International Trade (DIT) needs to be doing more to encourage and support SMEs to export. For instance, in our 2018 survey 33% of respondents listed ‘export support’ as one of the best ways the Government could help their business grow. The Government and DIT must therefore both improve and increase awareness of the services offered by DIT to help businesses new to exporting. It is encouraging that the Export Strategy acknowledges the past success of the Trade Access Programme (TAP), which provides grant funding for eligible businesses towards the costs of exhibiting at overseas trade shows, and is looking to build on this success.
“The Government is rightly placing itself at the heart of the solution by highlighting the work it needs to do to encourage more businesses to export, to provide more practical advice, and to provide the financial assurances which can make or break a deal,” said Mr Hindle “As an industry, we’re very interested to learn more about how exemplar companies can join the network of Export Champions to share best practice – a crucial step in supporting SMEs into the export market.”
He continued: “We must keep on reminding the Government of the importance of the furniture & furnishings industry to the economy. At nearly £17 billion and rising, it’s a substantial growth industry for the UK, supporting over 327,000 jobs across 50,000 registered companies. Manufacturing of furniture and beds in Britain is one of the top three divisions driving manufacturing growth in the UK, with an output of over £11 billion, emanating from 8,390 companies and employing 118,000 individuals.**”
* BFC membership survey conducted in March/April 2018, via Survey Monkey. A total of 65 companies answered 45 questions. The majority of responding businesses identified as either micro or small to medium. 12% as medium sized. 60% employ less than 50 people; 80% less than 100.
**Statistics taken from FIRA’s Statistical Digest December 2017, a compilation of published statistics and market information which has been sourced primarily from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), HM Customs and Revenue, the Bank of England and the Communities and Local Government web sites. Published in January 2018, the digest incorporates the latest available verified statistical information.