Call for more to join 'superstar' UK exporters

UK companies that dip in and out of the export market could add billions to the trade balance if they could be encouraged to join the nation's 'superstar' exporters, according to a new report.

If only ten per cent of these intermittent exporters joined the ranks of those who sell abroad constantly, it would provide an estimated £4.4 billion boost to exports, according to 'The Contribution of Trade to UK Prosperity’ report, produced jointly by Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking and Aston Business School.  The report says that the UK's role as a trading nation relies heavily on the exporting 'superstars' - the top ten per cent of exporters who account for some 90 per cent of all sales abroad."Superstar exporters tend to be larger, more capital intensive, more skills focused and pay higher wages, with concentration in the UK manufacturing and construction sectors. Examples include automotive manufacturer Ford and jet engine maker Rolls Royce," said the report.On the other hand, intermittent exporters were typified by companies that would export some of the time and were more inclined to change the products they sought to sell overseas, and to change the markets they were trying to sell to.As part of its investigation of the close links between productivity, innovation and international trading, Aston Business School conducted a survey of 1,200 business leaders. It showed that 55 per cent believed businesses trading internationally were more productive than those that did not, with 71 per cent saying exporting offered more growth opportunities.Additionally, just over a third thought UK businesses were well prepared to capitalise on future international opportunities and 42 per cent said they were anticipating new opportunities overseas.Jun Du, professor of economics at Aston Business School and director of the Lloyds Banking Group's Centre for Business Prosperity, said: “The significance of the UK’s superstar exporters to global trading is clear, but it’s also important to understand the value of intermittent exporters and how they can learn to further serve and contribute to the value chains."Opportunities exist to increase the number of superstars in the future, but productivity will remain key to performance."Our research outlines these opportunities by identifying the key characteristics that intermittent exporters can learn from in order to improve productivity and enhance innovation. Exporting in global markets offers opportunities to learn, innovate and become more productive.”The one blot on the landscape identified in the report was, inevitably, the Covid-19 pandemic, whih resulted in a 17 per cent fall in exports throughout 2020, along with a 14 per cent decline in imports.However, the survey found that that 58 per cent of business leaders remained 'highly optimistic' about the future of global trading, with more than three-quarters regarding Britain as a strong exporter.
Gwynne Master, global head of trade for Lloyds Bank, said: “Our new global position outside of the EU opens up a whole new world of opportunities for British businesses trading internationally."However, this sits in parallel to the challenges brought about by new trading regulations and an economy that is expected to be in recovery mode for the majority of 2021 as a result of the global pandemic.“Lloyds Bank has a role to play in bringing these businesses together to not only give them the guidance and capabilities to help them invest in and build their businesses but also so that they can share their lessons for success."We believe more could be done to boost productivity and innovation by helping intermittent exporters re-enter international markets and expand exporting spells for longer, while further enhancing our role in the global value chain.”

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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