‘Go for export’ gold says UKTI chief

SMALL and medium sized business have been challenged to go for export gold this year, by helping themselves and the economy to thrive.

Speaking at TheBusinessDesk.com’s international trade event, in association with UK Trade and Investment, ‘Go For It – Exporting for Beginners’ at the Reebok Stadium in Bolton, Clive Drinkwater, North West director at UKTI said he had set an “Olympic challenge for an Olympic year” to the region, of finding 1,000 more SME exporters.

“From Crewe to Carlisle, we need more exporters – it is a big challenge for the region and the economy, but international trade has been proven to make businesses more productive and resilient.

“I won’t pretend it’s easy, or right for every business, but there is help, support and guidance here.

“Our flagship programme Passport to Export provides this mentoring and access to a great network of advice and contacts.”

[VIDEO: 497]

An expert panel, including entrepreneur Simon Showman, co-founder and chief executive of Oldham-based retail supplier Ultimate Products, Ernst & Young tax partner Noam Handler, intellectual property expert Katie Withers from law firm DLA Piper and Iain Duncan from HSBC, joined Mr Drinkwater to give advice to around 60 businesses at the event.

Mr Showman said the domestic market had tightened over the last three years with consumer spending coming under pressure. With some retailers going out of business, Ultimate Products had been forced to look to new markets for growth.

“We’re now in the US, France and Australia, it’s been important for us as there have been fewer UK customers around.

[VIDEO: 498]

“It’s important to plan and to be patient. Going into any market needs to be well-thought out, and my other advice is to never take a risk on credit – particularly in these difficult times.

“After a good first meeting – it can take up to a year to finalise the deal – you have to keep jumping through hoops and be patient.”

Katie Withers from DLA Piper said while international growth offers plenty of opportunities, SMEs, particularly those involved in innovation and technology, had to take care to protect their trade marks and intellectual property.

[VIDEO: 499]

The panel agreed that for first time exporters, Ireland, Scandinavia and the Netherlands were good starter markets, but the biggest opportunities exist in higher growth markets.

Noam Handler from Ernst & Young flagged up research undertaken by his firm which points to a growing number of increasingly affluent middle class people – most of them living in Asia.

“By 2030 there will be an additional three billion people joining this global middle class, and it represents a big challenge for UK consumer business.”

Picking up on this theme Iain Duncan, commercial manager at HSBC in Manchester, said UK luxury car manufacturers, including Bentley and Rolls Royce, were seeing booming demand from international markets such as China.