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In such an interconnected world that we live in, export is incredibly important for businesses to gain advantage over their competition, and fortunately cities in the UK are quick to pick up the skills needed for international trade.

The parcel delivery firm, FedEX recently released the UK Export Epicentres report where it surveyed 2,500 SMEs from across 26 UK cities. The results were intriguing as it shows that SMEs in smaller UK cities such as Bradford are out doing London in their revenue from overseas markets.

Bradford versus Newcastle

As you can see from the table below, FedEx found Bradford to be the highest-exporting city on its list, with 86% of small business selling overseas. If you look at one of Bradford’s cleaning product company, Astonish, they export to more than 60 countries including China and the Middle East.

Surprisingly, Newcastle was found to be the lowest, at 66% despite its coastal location and past exporting successes with regards to glass, coal, locomotive and the printing industries. Geographical location could be seen as a hindrance factor due to Newcastle’s lack of access to road and air routes. One of Fedex’s managing directors stated that another reason for the low score is that business owners in these regions are simply not getting enough guidance on entering trade with overseas markets.

Export-epicentres

Still going strong

Despite stagnation in the euro area and the appreciation of the sterling, it is inspiring to know that some companies are overcoming obstacles and are still prospering. According to the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) in its recent International Trade Survey, about 59% of survey participants experienced sales growth in 2014. And due to the growing demand from international markets, around 34% of exporters have expanded their production capacity.

So what makes Bradford so special?

Bradford is a melting pot of different cultures and many locals of Bradford have ties and links to foreign countries. Thus they are utilising their cultural relationships and using them to develop successful business relationships. Being able to understand different languages always helps, so those coming from a bilingual or multilingual background can have the advantage in forging professional contacts abroad.

Bradford’s diverse economy is approximately worth £8.3bn and comprises of businesses in electronics, engineering, chemicals and printing that operate globally.

Many UK SMEs have claimed that the British Brand is what makes them stand out amongst competition on the international scene.  According to Astonish’s boss Howard Moss: “We had the Union Jack put on 30 years ago. It’s been a key marketing tool for our export markets.” Astonish’s overseas sales are now worth 40% of its turnover.

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Big Goals for British Exporting

Although many SME’s are aware of the potential exporting success that could be done with the US and Canada, very few companies actually do business with these countries, preferring to stick to nearby European markets of which traditionally have a relationship with the UK.

Nonetheless, exporting is essential for the UK, with the government setting big goals for Britain’s exports sector, hoping to double the figures to £1tn by 2020. Seeing the importance of international trade, the BCC are urging policymakers to do more to support exporters, and have specified the importance of capitalising on the export market in the fast growing economies outside of Europe.

The vice-president of northern Europe operations at FedEx Express. Trevor Hoyle,  has stated  “Now is the time to encourage UK SMEs to embrace their regional identities when building global relationships… Our great British history is rich and full of industrial heritage, the promotion of which can go a long way in driving UK exports forward.”

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