East Anglia: Region’s exports rise despite euro worries

EXPORTS in the eastern region grew by 9% during the second quarter of 2012 compared with the opening three months of the year, according to the latest DHL/BCC Trade Confidence Index.

The figure, which was also 3% up on the April-June period last year, was roughly in line with the 10% quarter-on-quarter increase recorded for the UK as a whole.

However, 40% of the 1,000-plus firms surveyed nationally said that exchange rates were a concern in terms of competitiveness, illustrating the impact of the continuing eurozone crisis on business confidence in the UK.

And a net positive balance of just 21% of firms felt profitability would increase in the coming 12 months, down from 30% the previous quarter.

Phil Couchman, chief executive of DHL Express UK and Ireland, which produces the survey in partnership with British Chambers of Commerce, said: “SMEs’ concerns around exchange rates and profitability highlight that there is still more to be done in terms of support for British businesses who are venturing into overseas markets.

“But recent export figures, such as those reported in the East are strong, and there is reason to believe that the ‘super summer’, a once in a lifetime opportunity that will put British businesses firmly in the spotlight, could present a fantastic opportunity to make inroads internationally.

“To sustain momentum, businesses large and small should start thinking now about how best to serve this international audience once the events are over, by initiating an export programme for their goods and services to reach that target market.

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“The worries highlighted in the report show that businesses should seek advice from professionals with a local presence who can provide specialist insight.”

John Longworth, chief executive of BCC, said: “Business concerns about the eurozone have increased in the last quarter, and it’s no wonder.

“In the last few months we have seen two General Elections in Greece, a bailout of Spanish lender Bankia, and sovereign borrowing costs creeping up to dangerously high levels yet again.

“But there is a silver lining. Businesses have seen an increase in export orders in the last quarter, despite concerns about the eurozone.

“While the EU is our main trading partner, UK businesses are looking to trade in new markets. According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics, more than half of British exports in the three months to May went to countries outside the EU, an increase of 13% on the same quarter last year.

“These results are encouraging, but we need to find ways to make our businesses think global, and provide them with the support they need to break into new markets.

“Businesses are still concerned with being able to access the appropriate finance to help them to break into new markets. Export growth is vital, not only to help to boost the UK economy, but to show the world that Britain remains a major global competitor and a nation to do business with.”