Less than half of North East England firms that could export currently sell overseas, report finds

Tue 30 Jan 2024
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News
Heathrow Expansion

Less than half of businesses in the North East that could sell their goods overseas are currently exporting, a new report has found.

Heathrow’s ‘Exporting Excellence’ study, reported in Business Live, found that 2,387 businesses in the region are already selling their goods internationally, but a further 3,600 SMEs could also trade overseas.

Businesses that do already export from the region support 168,000 jobs in the region, with the total value of their goods exceeding £12.9bn.

For those that don’t yet trade internationally, sustainability, skills gaps, access to finance and the need for government support were listed as current barriers.

Kick start

Heathrow released the report as part of a wider campaign it is running alongside the North East Chamber of Commerce. The airport’s chief commercial officer, Ross Baker, said:

“Exporting is vital to the North East economy and its exporters have provided valuable insight for the ‘Exporting Excellence’ campaign, detailing their own experiences on what is working well and where obstacles remain.

“Their insights have also informed our report, which we hope will kickstart a conversation across the UK about how government, industry and Heathrow can work together to grow international trade and encourage more and more businesses to export.”

Regional support matters

Paul Brooks, the Institute of Export & International Trade's (IOE&IT) lead for UK nations and regions, agreed that reports like this need to serve the purpose of kickstarting industry-government collaborations that support more businesses to trade.

He said:

“Businesses that export are more profitable and sustainable, so it’s important that government and industry draw on the learnings from reports such as Heathrow’s to ensure the support they provide is as effective as possible in encouraging more firms to trade.”

Brooks also highlighted that services businesses should also be encouraged to sell overseas, referring to IOE&IT’s recent report on services export potential across nations and regions in the UK.

Trade deal impact

Another survey released this week has also found that SMEs are continuing to struggle to rebuild their trade following Brexit.

The study from the British Chamber of Commerce (BCC), reported in the Times, found that, from the 2,000 SMEs surveyed, only a third had seen their trade increase since the final quarter of 2022, with only one in four seeing an improvement in exports specifically.

“The reality is if we want to remain one of the world’s largest economies, then we need to get more firms selling goods and services internationally,” said BCC head of trade policy William Bain.

“This is not easily done in the aftermath of a pandemic, supply chain disruption, Brexit, increased non-tariff trade barriers and further global headwinds.”