Increasing numbers of Northamptonshire firms are look to expand export sales, says new report

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More than half of mid-sized businesses in Northamptonshire expect to increase export levels over the next 12 months, according to research from financial and business advisers Grant Thornton.

A recent poll conducted by Grant Thornton found that 51 percent of mid-sized businesses (MSBs) questioned are gearing up to grow their current overseas business during 2015, with a further nine percent saying they plan to begin exporting for the first time.

Additionally, 45 percent of Northamptonshire MSBs polled said they were considering breaking into new overseas markets in the next 12 months, with an additional 28 percent stating it was a possibility. The most popular countries for future expansion cited were mainland Europe (33 percent) and the US (14 percent),

while nine percent of businesses equally stated China, Brazil and India as potential targets.

Ashley Clarkson of Grant Thornton’s Northampton office, said: “It’s encouraging to see such a large proportion of our county’s MSBs with a firm eye on international business and confident about future exporting.

“Last year, export sales in the East of England increased by 4.5 percent but with growing instability in the Eurozone, the strength of the pound, a general election on the horizon and business confidence levels slowing, this rate of growth may be difficult to match in 2015.

“A step change in mind-set is needed from whichever party or parties take residence in Downing Street in May which must include considerations for supporting our businesses in new markets abroad, particularly where demand for ‘Brand Britain’ carries a premium. Only this will ensure a long-term, sustainable and diversified business environment.”

When asked about the main barriers to doing business abroad, unsurprisingly 42 percent of the county’s firms questioned said overseas legislation and regulation were key challenges. A further 23 percent cited cultural and language

difficulties as an issue with almost a quarter saying it was difficult to find the right workers abroad to take the business forward.

Encouragingly, more than a third of Northamptonshire MSBs polled said they use a support organisation such as UKTI to help with overseas business and 17% said they would consider doing so in the future.

Mr Clarkson said: “A Grant Thornton report (‘Agents of Growth’) shows that UK MSBs have been outperforming other businesses when it comes to export growth. However, many still remain apprehensive of ventures into overseas markets, fearful in particular of regulatory and cultural barriers.

“But the agility of MSBs actually puts them at a competitive advantage, making them very well placed to overcome those challenges and seize the opportunities in high growth markets.

“The vast majority of MSBs looking to expand internationally tend to be focused on Western Europe and North America but it’s worth exploring beyond these regions to capitalise on higher growth areas such as India, China and South Africa. With the right support, the rewards could potentially be even greater.”