The British Chambers of Commerce has published new research in conjunction with DHL Express looking at the health of the UK’s export market. The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index, which measures both UK exporting activity and business confidence, shows that 40% of firms are looking to hire more staff, the highest number on record. Confidence is continuing to improve, with export sales and orders at all time highs.

The volume of trade documentation issued by Accredited Chambers of Commerce also jumped in Q1 2014, demonstrating that UK businesses are willing to break into new markets. But more support is required to sustain this confidence if we are to meet the government’s target of increasing exports to £1trillion by 2020.

The key findings from the report are:

  • Confidence among exporters about future turnover (71%) is at its second highest level on record
  • More than one third of exporters (40%) said they expect to hire more employees over the next quarter, the highest level on record
  • Half of exporters (50%) said their export sales increased, compared with only 6% who claimed that they fell
  • More than half of exporters (62%) believe that their profitability will increase this year
  • The BCC/DHL Trade Confidence Index – used to calculate the volume of trade documents administered by Chambers of Commerce across the UK – now stands at 117.03 – a 3.9% jump on Q4 2013 and is the second highest figure on record

Commenting, John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: “These results give us many reasons to feel cheery. There is much to be happy with in these results. Our exporters are selling more, and hiring more, showing ambition and willingness to export and grow their business. They are taking advantage of the opportunities on offer when breaking into new markets and it is great to see that the volume of exports is now at an all time high.

“There is however so much more potential to realise. The government’s target of increasing exports to £1trillion by 2020 is a difficult target, but not insurmountable. But these businesses, while making every effort to expand into new markets, cannot do it alone. Government and civil servants must also play their part so we can make real in-roads into high-growth markets. And we simply must spend far more on trade support than our current 0.02% of GDP, if we are to rebalance our economy towards net exports.

“The British Chambers of Commerce is doing its bit, by accrediting overseas Chambers of Commerce and business groups in 41 countries across the globe, so that business people have a first port of call when they step off the plane, where they can receive practical advice and support on the ground. But we can and must all do more if we are to compete on a global scale in the months and years ahead.”

Commenting, Phil Couchman, CEO of DHL Express UK and Ireland, said: “With increased confidence levels amongst exporters and crucially a rise in the volume of export documentation to the second highest level on record, there is much to be positive about. The government’s increasing support for exporters, such as the new export credit scheme, means that British businesses are slowly being equipped with the tools they need to capitalise on the benefits of growing their business abroad.

“Looking to new markets remains key for growth, the Chancellor’s recent trade trip to Brazil to build business relationships shows that this is a market with significant opportunities for businesses. The upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games also demonstrate a huge investment in this territory’s infrastructure.

“However, considering new markets for entry requires detailed planning and research. There are a number of resources available, one of which includes the DHL’s new Export Advisors Service – a team of dedicated small business exporting experts providing free advice for businesses, whether they are a DHL customer or not. The team can assist with export strategy and provide detailed information on customs regulations, legal and administrative differences as well as local insight.

“The UK SMEs already growing their businesses overseas are hugely confident in the possibilities the export market presents. A great deal of work has already been undertaken to aid businesses on their route to exporting and to keep this success overseas marching on, we must continue to make sure that support is readily available.”