East Anglia: Many small firms regret not starting to export sooner, says Barclays

Mark Suthern of Barclays.

Mark Suthern of Barclays. - Credit: VisMedia

Two out of five small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region which are involved in exporting wish they had started to target overseas markets earlier, according to a new survey.

The study by Barclays found that businesses in the eastern region are, on average, eight years old when they find that they can no longer achieve their desired rate of growth from the UK market alone.

However, three-quarters (75%) say they have found exporting as easy, or even easier, than they expected and nearly two-fiths (38%) wish in retrospect that they had started sooner.

Barclays says that a tipping point at which businesses realise they can no longer achieve the desired level of business growth by trading only in the UK, was clear in all sectors, but at different times.

Telecoms and internet, media and entertainment businesses hit their limit at only two years, whereas logistics and retail businesses reached it at three. Manufacturing businesses found they had more time before needing to look abroad for growth opportunities, hitting their limit at eight years.


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Barclays suggests that the regret as not having started exporting sooner reflects a common experience that a number of the factors that had held them back proved in the event to be psychological, rather than actual, barriers.

In Eastern Region, 75% of those who said they wish they had started exporting sooner said the reason they hadn’t done was because they either just “didn’t know where to start”, thought it would be “too complicated”, “didn’t think it would work” or just “didn’t think to do it”.

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Having overcome those psychological barriers, 38% of SMEs in the area now say they wish they’d started exporting sooner.

Mark Suthern, head of business banking, eastern region at Barclays, said: “What strikes me about our research is how successful at exporting SMEs are.

“This is despite 69% of business in eastern region claiming to have ‘fallen into it’, or only looking at it ‘when an overseas customer got in touch’. With such high growth opportunities, imagine the possibilities that could come from taking a more proactive approach.

“We are committed to helping UK SMEs trade confidently across the globe and call on them today to think more internationally with their business plans in partnership with their Barclays business manager.”

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