UK SME Exporters Face Stagnant Growth Amid Economic Issues

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The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has released insights revealing the challenges encountered by UK small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) exporters amidst ongoing economic uncertainty. According to the latest Trade Confidence Outlook from the BCC’s Insights Unit, SMEs in the UK have witnessed stagnant export growth since the onset of the pandemic, with a slight decline noted since late 2023.

Data from Q1 2024 indicates a drop in overseas sales for SMEs, while domestic demand remains relatively robust. This disparity underscores the impact of uncertainties surrounding Brexit on international market performance, with varying effects observed across sectors.

Comparing data from Q4 2018 to Q1 2024, the report reveals a decline in the proportion of SME exporters reporting increased overseas sales, from 28% to 24%. Conversely, the percentage reporting a decrease in overseas sales has risen from 16% to 23% during the same period.

The impact of these challenges varies across sectors. SME manufacturers appear to be more affected, with 27% reporting an increase in exports, while SME service providers to end consumers (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) service sectors have faced their own difficulties.

William Bain, head of trade policy at the BCC, emphasised the fragile outlook for 2024 due to ongoing geopolitical uncertainty and concerns about supply chain resilience. Despite these challenges, Bain highlighted the strength of the UK’s brand and competitiveness, urging a focus on leveraging existing advantages.

As uncertainties persist, UK SME exporters navigate through a challenging landscape, seeking resilience and adaptation in the face of evolving economic dynamics.