Small Business and Export Trends

With us living in a connected world with a global economy it is easy to think that exporting is something that is easier to do than ever before. However, is this really the case?

By looking at current export trends around the globe we can begin to see whether this is a golden age for exporters or not.


image courtesy of sodaro,k  via Flickr

For a start, exporting has been in the news in the UK lately. This is due to poor results being announced by the Confederation of British Industry. The CBI confirmed that export trends from small and medium sized businesses dropped to the lowest level in years recently.

In fact, we need to go all the way back to 2009 to see lower levels of exports from the UK. 46% of the companies that took part in the survey reported lower export levels than last year. Meanwhile, just 10% said that their exports have increased.

Of course, we also need to take into account that domestic order levels are also down. In this case, though, the drop was smaller. So why have export orders taken a dive for British firms? According to the same CBI report prices are the main issue, as the pound strengthens. 12% of the companies surveyed believe that the next 3 months will see export orders fall even more.

A Lack of Skilled Workers

In some cases, a lack of relevant skills is a factor holding back companies that want to export. Many companies report a demand for their products but an inability to hire workers with the right skills to be able to take advantage of this demand.

Across in Canada, a CIBC World Markets report had good news in terms of the number of new small and medium sized businesses starting up. Indeed, in this last year employment in SMEs has grown 3 times as fast as in bigger companies, with the number of new SMEs up by close to 20% since 2007.

Benjamin Tal is deputy chief economist of the CIBC and co-author of the report. He said that small businesses have stopped the Canadian economy from “sinking into deeper water”. However, he says that they now need to look more closely at the possibility of exporting, especially to Europe and the US.

Currently, only 10% of small and medium businesses in Canada export. Even more interestingly, this figure is the same as it was 15 years ago, meaning that there has been no increase in export trends even given the increased free trade possibilities that exist these days.

A final point to consider from this report is that it points out that Canadian SMEs that export are more likely to have invested in innovation, research and development, giving them a big potential advantage over companies that don’t export.

5% Export in the US

In the US, Texas is the state with the best record in exports. In the country as whole, only about 5% of the SMEs export. Of those that export around 60% do so to just one foreign market. There is good news in Baltimore, where plans for an export trade strategy report detailing how to increase export opportunities is due out in 2016.

Texas has the most impressive figures in the country, although there is still room for improvement. The University of Texas at San Antonio is one of a couple of dozen small business development centers across the USA that are set up to help businesses export more of their goods. The 2014 figures for this center show that they were involved in helping 413 small businesses create over 900 jobs and generate $490 million in revenues from exporting.

South Australia Exports Booming

In Australia, a report called Employment from Exports has recently been released by Trade and Investment Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith. In this study we see that South Australia generated $11.4 billion in exports and economic activities outside the state. This business brought over 200,000 jobs to the region, with is 28.5% of the whole employment in South Australia.

The overall summary of the report is that small and medium sized businesses in the state are excelling when it comes to export trends. Hamilton-Smith pointed to an “increasing global demand” for the region’s products and “expertise in service industries”. This higher demand has led to a 10% increase in exports in the main sectors.

Among the top goods getting exported from here are food and wine, while the “advanced manufacturing and services” are also highly sought after. Over 65,000 of the jobs in South Australia are linked to foreign exports. Trade agreements with countries in Asia have benefitted the region in recent times.

As we have seen, there are some challenges facing small businesses that want to export. However, there are also some wonderful opportunities out there and many reasons for giving it a try. It seems that giving the export business a try is still well worth doing but it certainly isn’t easy.

This video will show you how to get started

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