Exports may hold key to solving South West SMEs top concerns

By Anita Jaynes on October 10, 2015

Finding new customers is the number one concern for UK small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) according to a new survey commissioned by HSBC Commercial Banking. However, the survey revealed that just four per cent of the South West’s SMEs plan to start exporting in the next year in a bid to gain new customers.

While concerns around the threat of growing competition, the availability of skilled staff and the burden of regulation were also cited by SMEs in the South West, finding customers emerged as one of their biggest issues.

With a third of British small businesses already trading overseas to increase their customer base, Nigel B Davis, HSBC’s Head of Business Banking in the South West urged more small business leaders to consider exporting opportunities: “South West SMEs have every reason to be confident about selling their goods and services beyond Britain’s borders. UK brands are loved and respected around the world for their quality and innovation.

“HSBC is committed to supporting small businesses in the South West to export internationally. With our unrivalled international network giving us a presence in 60 markets around the world, we can help guide businesses as they seek to explore opportunities overseas.”

With the improved economic climate, SMEs can be confident in overseas opportunities. International trade is on the rise, with UK export volumes rising nearly seven per cent in recent months. According to HSBC’s latest Trade Confidence report, UK businesses which are already exporting expect to see increased international demand over the next six months, particularly from Europe.

On a sector basis, the survey revealed that SMEs in the automotive, financial services, and consumer and retail sectors were the least likely to start exporting, largely due to the belief their goods or services would not sell abroad. SMEs in the manufacturing sector were the most likely to start trading or to expand trade overseas in the next 12 months.

HSBC SME Survey Key Findings:

– Finding customers is the number one priority for UK SMEs
– 1 in 6 UK SMEs say too many similar businesses is a concern
– One-third of SMEs surveyed are already trading or operating internationally
– Manufacturing SMEs are the most likely to be operating internationally

HSBC Key Facts & Figures:

·         1 million: the number of businesses supported by HSBC
·         £8 billion: size of HSBC’s national SME fund, allocated regionally across the UK
·         18: months of fee-free business banking for start-ups
·         12: months of fee-free business banking for switchers (market-leading)
·         85%: the percentage of business lending applications we are currently approving