Container ship

Container ship ready to export

Can you afford not to export?

Lisa Wilson, head of tax at Cowgill Holloway, explains why businesses of all shapes and sizes should be exploring export opportunities...

Growth figures for the first quarter of 2017 revealed a low of 0.2%, which suggests businesses should be looking to new markets – and with the UK comprising just a twentieth of the world’s economy, companies that aren’t considering exporting are most likely limiting their potential for growth.

In terms of the UK’s current export performance, it was positive to see the value of UK goods exported increasing by 11% for the year ending March 2017, although there is still a great deal of work to be done in demystifying the process. Many companies have a product or a service that they believe may be suitable for export, but need guidance on processes, opportunities and potential pitfalls.

When discussing exporting, it’s important to first address attitudes towards risk. Many business owners consider exporting as a potential risk to their company – but while it will undoubtedly involve an initial learning curve, exporting can help businesses to spread their risk by creating opportunities in multiple markets, easing their sole reliance on domestic demand.

The UK, in the wake of the Brexit vote, has seen continuing speculation around the health and robustness of the UK economy, the decline in disposable income and the increase in inflation – for a business that sells consumer goods and services, exporting may be a sensible way to spread risk, creating demand in international markets that aren’t subject to the same pressures. Brexit has of course also created continuing debate around the UK’s trade deal with the EU – whatever the UK’s exit brings, whether a favourable deal or no deal at all – it’s important for businesses to remember that there are markets outside of the EU that are likely to offer opportunities and should be explored.

Many businesses are discouraged from considering exporting due to perceived obstacles; cultural barriers, regulations and paperwork to name a few. Then there’s considering your route to market, thinking about any modifications your product may need in order to be sold in a foreign market, protecting your intellectual property and access to finance. But while exporting is undoubtedly a learning curve, there are numerous resources and advisory bodies that are on hand to offer support and assistance – such as the Department for International Trade (DIT), which will provide support and advice to any company considering exporting, even helping to arrange one-to-one meetings with potential partners or customers. Member organisations such as the Forum for Small Business (FSB) and Chamber of Commerce also offers guidance and tools to make the process as straightforward as possible.

Businesses should also make the best use of their advisors, who will be able to bring both experience and knowledge to the table, avoiding any potential pitfalls and ensuring that the business stands in the best possible stead to create profitable export markets, spreading risk and creating new and exciting opportunities for growth.

85% of UK companies operating in overseas markets believe exporting has led to a level of growth not otherwise possible - what could exporting do for your business?

It’s time to consider the possibilities.


Exporting and international trade remain high on the Scottish Government’s economic growth agenda and the Scottish Export Awards, in association with Scottish Enterprise and HSBC, are about recognising the excellence in those emerging, wealth creating companies that are selling their products, services and expertise in scores of overseas markets.

To find out more about the awards, click here.

And the PD Ports Northern Powerhouse Export Awards are about recognising the excellence in those emerging, wealth creating companies that are selling their products, services and expertise in scores of overseas markets.

Click here to nominate and for event information.