Scotland’s exporters report sales decline

Scotland’s small to medium-sized exporters are selling less of their goods and services overseas, but those that do expect foreign revenues to grow as they become more competitive during the first half of 2016, according to the latest Business in Britain report from Bank of Scotland.
The report found that the proportion of Scottish businesses that export has declined in the last six months of 2015, from 30 per cent to 27 per cent, and those that export now make 31 per cent of their sales overseas, down from 32 per cent mid-way through 2015.
The findings come during Exporting is Great Week (18 – 22 April), a UKTI initiative to support new exporters. The bank expressed its continued commitment to supporting exporters earlier this month through its SME Charter and holds a strategic partnership with the UKTI to provide advice and intelligence to its customers.
While 21 per cent grew their exports in second half of 2015, 61 per cent maintained their level of overseas sales and just 18 per cent saw them fall.
A net balance of around one in ten exporters expect to keep growing their overseas sales during the first half of 2016.
While this represented a fall of 37 points compared with the first half of 2015, 39 per cent of exporters still expected their ability to compete in international markets to improve in the next six months, compared with just 7 per cent who think it will deteriorate.
Graham Blair, regional director, SME Banking Scotland, Bank of Scotland, said: “As weakening growth in China and the Eurozone creates headwinds for some exporters, it is unsurprising to see that less Scottish SME exporters are generating less of their sales overseas, but it’s encouraging to see that more businesses are looking to grow those international sales in the year ahead.
“Starting or scaling-up export activity can be a daunting prospect for businesses, but the benefits are many and we are working hard to support Scottish firms’ export ambitions.”
The Business in Britain report, now in its 24th year, gathers the views of 1,500 UK companies, predominantly small to medium sized businesses, tracking opinion on a range of important performance and confidence measures.
Nationally, it found that Europe looks set to continue as the UK’s biggest trading partner, with more than a third (37 per cent) predicting an uplift in sales there, against just 19 per cent expecting sales to fall.
Despite the slowdown in the Chinese economy, just 10 per cent expected sales to the Asia Pacific region – which includes China – to fall, compared with 24 per cent which expected them to keep growing.
And almost one in three (30 per cent) expect to increase sales in the US and Canada, against just 18 per cent expecting sales there to fall.
Blair added: “Despite some negative headlines, there are clearly still opportunities for British exporters to prosper. Our teams of locally-based relationship managers can provide the kind of insight, support and introductions that can be invaluable to firms setting out on their export journey.
“To that end we were the first British bank to form a strategic partnership with UKTI to provide advice and intelligence to our customers, and have committed to help 25,000 exporters by 2020 in our SME Charter.”
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