Research highlights export opportunities

TWO-thirds of businesses in the region could be missing out on growth by failing to explore opportunities in international markets, according to research.

A survey by Lloyds TSB Commercial found that 64% of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are not currently exporting.

The findings were highlighted at an event for 120 SMEs staged by the bank at Trinity Park, Ipswich, to provide advice on how companies can grow.

Local representatives from UK Trade & Investment delivered a presentation on the fundamentals of getting started in import and export markets, while guidance on funding, managing finances and investing was provided by Lloyds TSB Commercial. Croner, a human resources consultancy, was also at the event, offering information on employment regulation.

The research showed more than half of local businesses (55%) have seized the opportunities created by the growth of the internet and have entered the export market by selling directly to end buyers via online channels, mainly targeting customers in the European Union, North America and the Far East, including China.

It also confirmed exports are accounting for an increasing proportion of turnover, with 62% of firms having seen income from exported goods or services grow in the last 12 months, 45% expecting an increase this year and 55% predicting the trend to continue into 2011.

However, of the SMEs that are not currently involved in international markets, just one in 10 (11%) have plans to begin exporting, suggesting that many firms may be missing out on the potential to boost sales significantly.

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Steve Elsom, area director for Lloyds TSB Commercial in East Anglia, said: “I hope the event inspired small business owners in Ipswich to fully explore the avenues of growth that are open to them – whether these exist in the UK or abroad.

“While exporting may have traditionally been seen as only suitable to companies in industries such as manufacturing, firms operating in other sectors should look closely at new markets and international demand for their products.

“New technology has opened the borders and means many companies who may not have considered marketing and exporting before or have dismissed it as unfeasible, could find untapped markets are now easily accessible.

“We organised this event because we recognise SMEs are a vital component of the UK economy and it’s crucial they are in a prime position to seize the opportunities a strengthening global economy is likely to bring.

“It was a fantastic opportunity for firms to share best practice, network, and access guidance and support to gain the confidence and knowledge they require to identify new business opportunities and push forward with their plans for the future.”

The event was one of 200 being held by Lloyds TSB Commercial as part of its 2012 SME Charter, which aims to encourage enterprise, highlight access to finance and offer clearer pricing.