A new wave of up to 1,000 exporters has the potential to trade overseas and boost the North East’s growing export market, a new report reveals.
Significant opportunities exist for small and medium-sized firms in the design, creative and digital sectors as well as engineering and technical services, report authors RTC North found in one of the largest surveys of North East exporting ever undertaken.
RTC North, headquartered in Sunderland, provides professional services in technology, innovation and business growth, and delivers UK Trade and Investment services in the region along with the North East Process Industry Cluster and North East Chamber of Commerce
Based on the survey findings, the report estimates that between 800 and 1,000 North East firms that do not currently export have a realistic capability to do so.
The challenge now is for support specialists to reach these firms, tell them of the benefits of expanding their customer base outside the UK and tailor advice to meet their individual needs, the survey says.
More than 600 SMEs responded to RTC North’s What Industry Wants international trade research survey, compiled in conjunction with Newcastle University Business School. A total of 400 companies surveyed are current exporters while 213 are not trading overseas, with 76% of the surveyed businesses employing less than 50 people.
The survey provided an objective study of export behaviour and current trade performance among smaller businesses in the North East.
Gordon Ollivere, chief executive of RTC North, said: “One of the objectives of this study was to estimate the current number of North East SMEs with realistic and short term export potential – and that figure is likely to be between 800 and 1,000 companies.
“The challenge we have taken up now at RTC North as a result of this survey is to work with these firms thinking about exporting, to use our extensive skills and networks to convince companies of the benefits of trading overseas and help them take the first steps to access the huge number of opportunities that these markets offer.”
Among the non-exporting firms, lack of management time was cited as the largest obstacle to trading overseas. Many also feared exporting could adversely impact their UK business.
The North East will need to create around 500 new exporters and earn an estimated £20bn from these exports if it is to help the Government achieve its target of doubling the value of UK exports by 2020.
Rob Nirsimloo, chief Executive of the Hexham-based Multichem, which supplies inks to more than 30 countries, worked closely with RTC North to establish a manufacturing base in Shanghai to service the firm’s Chinese marketplace.
He said: “Instead of spending one to two years finding premises and equipping them, we were able to take a shortcut through all that with RTC North’s support. We travelled quite extensively through China, looking at various locations to meet up with local partners, lawyers and entrepreneurs.
“They had done all that before and were highly experienced in setting up new enterprises in China and helping businesses navigate through the extensive red tape.”