A six-year funk in consumer spending has seen mass closures from House of Fraser to Marks & Spencer in UK high streets. However, SMEs are seemingly eyeing fresh opportunities abroad.
Surveying over 1,000 SMEs, WorldFirst, the currency exchange specialists, revealed the average SME retailer clocked £54,274 of international transfers in 2018’s first quarter – nearly doubling Q1 2017’s £29,517. Given the average number of overseas trades completed over the quarter have fallen by 40% to just nine a month, those nine certainly pack a punch.
With this positive backdrop, it’s unsurprising to find some SMEs feeling confident about the future. Indeed, 39% of SME retailers don’t fear Brexit’s influence on their region and a quarter strongly disagree it would hurt their companies. As a matter of fact, a quarter said the UK leaving the EU wouldn’t affect their business whatsoever.
Although not all admit it’s plain sailing: 48% worry over currency instability. Moreover, economic factors such as a heightened labour costs and tightened household budgets among others have prompted SME stores to try their hand at exporting.
To keep the ball rolling 51% desire outside help on exporting, with one in five specifically seeking governmental aid and 17% longing for education on the matter.
Commenting on the news Jeremy Cook, chief economist at WorldFirst, said: “In the face of this, SME retailers have had to adapt, sidestep a downbeat domestic market and focus on trading more overseas with many leveraging rapidly evolving technology to achieve success on the international stage.
“But as they forgo the UK high street, SME retailers must be supported by the government and the wider industry. If current sentiment is anything to go by, 2018 will be the year that our nation of shopkeepers becomes a nation of exporters.”
In an at best uncertain industry, international markets see SME retailers brimming with success. And after the Brexit deadline, the overseas route will become more and more appealing.