Business Finance: A focus on exports is vital for growth, says Julie Steel

Julie Steel of KPMG

Julie Steel of KPMG .

As confidence improves and thoughts turn from survival to growth, businesses should be focused on their overseas strategy for growth.

The focus on exports is an issue that continues to drive the UK government’s growth agenda as the Prime Minister backs his national challenge that by 2020 the UK should:

: : Double exports to £1trillion;

: : Increase the number of firms exporting by 100,000; and

: : Raise the number of SMEs exporting from the current level of one in five, to the European average of one in four

Suffolk Chamber of Commerce has made “Exporting is Good for Suffolk” its theme for 2013, which has been backed by the Prime Minister and Minister for Business Lord Green. The chamber saw a 14% rise in the export papers it dealt with in the first half of this year, compared to the same period last year. That compared to an average 9% rise across the East of England.

With growth still getting off the ground, it is important to economic recovery that British businesses look to overseas markets as well. The global economic centre of gravity still largely resides in high-growth markets such as Brazil, Russia, India and China.

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The proportion of UK firms doing business overseas has risen over the past two years. In fact, according to UKTI East of England, this region has seen an impressive 16.4% rise in exports to countries outside of the European Union with the United States retaining the top spot as our most important export destination. But, whilst there is an increased awareness and interest in high growth and developing markets, relative to our competitors, UK businesses still don’t export enough, particularly to these markets.

Many businesses may be deterred by well-documented social unrest, currency depreciation and corruption issues in some of these countries, but there are a number of organisations such as UKTI who can help to navigate you through the maze of unfamiliar issues that you might come across.

Other initiatives such as UK Export Finance have already been pivotal in supporting a great number of businesses in driving their growth agendas in overseas markets.

Whatever stage of development you may be in with your export strategy, the emerging markets remain powerful markets with huge potential for those that get it right and should be a consideration in any growth strategy.

: : Julie Steel is a member of KPMG’s East Anglia practice.