E-Commerce Trade Commission calls for support for small businesses to boost UK exports

Fri 1 Dec 2023
Posted by: Richard Cree
Trade News

Small business owner on laptop

An industry-led commission of e-commerce experts is calling for greater support for small retailers to boost growth through exports ahead of Small Business Saturday (2 December).

Convened by the Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT), the E-Commerce Trade Commission brings together the world’s leading e-commerce platforms, including Amazon, Shopify and Etsy, working alongside the Department for Business and Trade (DBT).

A report from the Social Market Foundation, commissioned by Amazon, found that selling overseas online can generate anywhere from an extra £100,000 to £950,000 in annual revenues a year for small businesses.

Clear info needed

Marco Forgione, chair of the commission and director general of IOE&IT, wants the calls of those running small businesses to be heard:

“Small business owners in the UK have told us that they’re struggling to find the support they need. These are businesses that want to grow by expanding into new markets and who want to take advantage of the new free trade deals the UK has been securing.

“Clear information and ease of access to educational support – both online and in-person – are crucial but simple steps we can take to help our small businesses thrive.”

Emma Jones CBE, founder of small business support platform and membership community Enterprise Nation, agrees that small firms often struggle to get the information they need to give them the confidence to export: 

“Exporting, whether it be a product or service, is a significant driver of productivity and growth. But many small businesses tell us they can’t identify one single place to find what they need, or when they do find information, it’s over-complicated and patchy.”

Nation of entrepreneurs

Forgione says that, as a nation of entrepreneurs, the UK’s small business sector is a source of immense pride for the country, and this is particularly true for the retail sector.

“Utilising e-commerce to sell the best of British goods around the world can boost small retailers’ revenue by hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“Britain’s small shops are the backbone of our high streets and e-commerce can help them unleash their international growth potential. I’m excited by the prospect of platforms and policymakers coming together to help our small firms achieve this.”

For her part, Jones wants to see more support for businesses wanting to enter new markets.

“Small Business Saturday is about supporting businesses in their local community - but at the same time more consideration needs to be given to support small businesses to more confidently access new territories and markets.”

New commission

The E-commerce Trade Commission was formed in June 2023 and aims to encourage 70,000 more small British businesses to export online by 2025, potentially boosting the economy by £9.3bn.

It seeks to do this by improving knowledge and understanding of how to trade internationally, and supporting government with policy recommendations focused on addressing the barriers small firms currently face.

Labour plans

Boosting small business exports was also a feature of the Labour Party’s plan for the UK’s small business community, launched this week. Describing small business as “the beating heart of our economy”, the report outlines of a nine-point action plan:

  • Legislate to tackle late payments
  • Scrap business rates for a fairer system
  • Revitalise Britain’s high streets
  • Boost small business exports
  • Set a new direction for skills
  • Get Britain building again
  • Make Britain a clean energy superpower
  • Make the UK the best place to start and scale a business
  • Offer small firms a fair chance at public contracts