• BCC/DHL quarterly report on health of UK export market published on the same day as BCC’s International Trade Conference
• Survey of 2,200 exporting firms shows that UK export orders remain close to six-year high seen in Q2, confirming strength of exporting activity among British businesses
• 69% of exporters expect their turnover to improve this quarter – the highest number since 2007
• Nearly a third of exporting firms (34%) said that they expected to increase staff over the next quarter, up from 31% in Q2 2013
On the day of the British Chambers of Commerce’s International Trade Conference (Thursday), the business group has published new research in conjunction with DHL Express looking at the health of the UK’s export market. The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, which measures both UK exporting activity and business confidence, shows that UK export orders remained close to the record high levels seen in Q2, and that turnover confidence among exporters is now at the highest level since 2007 (69%). Confidence was particularly strong among exporting manufacturers, with 66% believing that their turnover is likely to improve, compared with 61% last quarter.
The index number, which is calculated from the volume of export documents issued to businesses selling goods abroad, now stands at 116.32 – the third highest figure on record. This is 3% higher than at the same time in 2012.
The key findings from the report are:
• Export orders increased for nearly half of service sector firms (47%) and for 38% of manufacturing firms.
• Nearly half of exporters (46%) said their export sales increased in Q3 2013, compared to 8% who said that they decreased.
• Confidence among exporters in terms of future turnover is at its highest level since 2007 (69%), with 66% of manufacturers expecting turnover to increase.
• More than half of exporters (55%) believe that their profitability will increase this year.
• Around a third of exporting firms (34%) said that they expected to increase staff over the next quarter, up from 31% in Q2 2013.
• The number of exporting businesses claiming that raw material costs were adding to price pressures increased from 33% to 34% in Q3 2013.
Commenting, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:
“UK exporters are more optimistic than ever about their prospects, with confidence higher than it has been since before the economic crisis. Exports have remained strong, and even more exporting firms are looking to take on new staff. The companies I visit across the UK are inspiring and dedicated, and these results are living proof that it will be businesses that drive our recovery forward.
“Our bullish exporters give us even more reason to believe that the economy is turning a corner, and that full-year growth is likely to be stronger than expected. But although things are looking up, there is more to do before we are well and truly on our way to having a great economy. Exporting businesses are doing all they can to drive growth and find new opportunities overseas, but the government can’t expect them to just get on with it without doing more to support them.
“Politicians have to make export support a top priority and ensure that firms have access to real, practical, business-to-business help to give them the best possible chance of breaking into new markets across the world. Currently, we only spend 0.05% of GDP on promoting exports and inward investment. This is nowhere near enough if we are relying on exports to rebalance our economy. We urge the government to use the Autumn Statement to kick-start a global trade revolution and put the economy front and centre.”
Commenting on the report’s results, Phil Couchman, CEO of DHL Express UK and Ireland, said:
“We're really encouraged by the results of this quarter's Trade Confidence Index, but still believe that not enough firms realise that global trade is a commercial opportunity that is readily accessible to them. Many would-be exporters are put off by the perceived scale of the exporting challenge, but at DHL we believe that with the right practical and creative support, businesses can rapidly tap into overseas demand for British goods and start to reap the reward.
"Regardless of business size, the UK economy has the opportunity to grow if it looks to expansion within foreign markets. In order to achieve the Government’s ambition to double the amount of businesses exporting by 2020, we are encouraged by greater collaboration across government and industry to drive exports and develop a single UK brand identity, which promotes the UK economy abroad. We look forward to helping more British SMEs reap the rewards of international expansion."