The UK is the world’s tenth largest exporter, just behind Italy (ninth), France (eighth) and the Netherlands (fifth), but a long way behind Germany (third), the USA (second) and China (first).
According to the latest government figures, UK exports totalled £637bn in the year to August 2018 – a £33bn or 5.5% year-on-year increase. Service sector exports grew by 5.3% to “a record high of £289bn”, while goods exports “also increased by 5.6% to £348bn”. According to the government – there’s never been a better time to sell overseas.
Where should you sell?
The UK’s next biggest trade partner is the USA, with 13% (value £45bn) of our exports ending up “over the pond” in 2017. Breaking down the EU, about a tenth of UK exports end up in Germany (£36bn), 7.4% in France (£25bn), 6.2% in the Netherlands (£21bn), 5.7% in Ireland (£19.4bn), with 4.8% ending up in China (£16.3bn). Other top ten markets include Switzerland (4.5% – £15.4bn), Belgium (4% – £13.6bn), Italy and Spain (both 3% – £10.1bn).
According to the government, in 2016, 206, 800 “GB businesses” were exporting (just 8.8% of UK firms); 193,300 (93%) of exporters were in England and London was the UK region with the highest number of exporters (50,300).
Research by Lloyds Bank also highlighted the opportunity in large export growth markets for the UK in 2017; those markets which are currently in the top twenty by export size and are growing the fastest. Leading the pack was India with 34.4% growth in UK exports, followed by Hong Kong (16.2%), Poland (13.1%), Turkey (13.1%), Japan (12.3%) and South Korea (10.5%).
What should you sell?
In 2017, goods accounted for 55% of total UK exports, with services (obviously) making up the rest (45%). The UK’s top exports are mechanical machinery (14%); cars (10%); electrical machinery (8%); medicinal/pharmaceutical products (8%); crude oil (6%); aircraft (5%); other miscellaneous manufactures (5%); scientific/photographic (4%); and refined oil (3%). Although large companies dominate, many smaller firms within supply chains benefit from export sales.
British food and drink products continue to prove popular. Successful exports, of course, include Scotch whiskey, with exports growing in both volume (1.6%) and value (8.9%) in 2017 to reach £4.36bn (1.23bn bottles globally). Chocolate continues to be another UK export success story, with exports worth £694m in 2017 – a significant increase since 2010 (£370m), driven by a rise in artisan chocolate exports from smaller independent manufacturers. Scottish salmon exports also reached record levels in 2017 (£600m – up 35% compared to 2016).
UK cheese exports totalled £615m last year – a 23 per cent increase from 2016 (source: HMRC), and cheddar dominated, although British mozzarella showed strong growth. Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Denmark and Poland remain key export markets for UK cheesemakers.