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You are here: News » Archived News » Exporting in times of trouble

Exporting in times of trouble

UK Exporting

Thursday 24 February 2022 saw a schism in the established order of world trade with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is not the place for a commentary on that heinous act, but rather to reflect on the implications of it from the perspective of UK exporters. It is a sad reflection of history and reality that wars create great wealth and great poverty and that there is opportunity in both. There are suddenly new exporters, many charitable, sending large volumes of food, clothing and more in charitable donations via Poland and other neighbouring countries. There are also Governments, and their suppliers, sending large volumes of weapons and the equipment of war. Both sides in the war are using up tens of billions of pounds in weapons and equipment and tens if not hundreds of billions of pounds of damage is being done to infrastructure across Ukraine.

The refugee crisis is creating logistics difficulties across Europe generating supply needs shifts alongside the people movement. There are sanctions that continue to ratchet up, and major supply issues that are going to have long term effects. Countries throughout the world are already scrambling to replace supplies, but also looking for alternative markets for their products. 12.5% of Ukraine’s exports went to Russia and Belarus, 8% to China, almost 40% to the EU but only 1.4% to the UK. Ukraine imports 20% from Russia and Belarus, 13.3% from China, over 40% from EU and 1.1% from UK. The disruption that the war will cause to these economies cannot yet be fully envisaged; so much depends on the eventual outcome and the timescale but widespread recessions would not be a surprise.

Ukraine has developed a major specialism in IT over several decades. That is highly mobile. The question of whether those in the IT industry relocate will also likely depend on the outcome and timescale. Other implications are already having a major impact: extreme rises in fossil fuels are causing major rises in inflation and leading to increases in interest rates and salary demands. These in turn could restrict consumer spending in other areas. The side effects of sanctions are as yet unknown. In spite of all this uncertainty, most of the world remains open and opportunities abound. UK goods have an excellent global reputation for quality, and, with good reason, the UK is the second largest exporter of services around the world. Whether you are a complete novice or a seasoned exporter there is considerable help available, and whilst it can appear daunting to access, assistance is easily available.

Whether you provide online learning, web services, manufacture chocolate or jams, the initial basic process of exporting is exactly the same: you need to find customers who want what you have to offer. Finding those who want to purchase is no different to selling within the UK.

Can it be hard? Of course, just as finding new customers in the UK can be hard. You can find similarities in customers around the world. You have many underlying advantages: The English language is widely used across the world. The Union Jack is a symbol for quality products and the UK is a high quality, sophisticated market.

When you work out where the markets for your offerings are in the UK, apply the same logic to find similar markets overseas. If you are not sure, then ask for help. Check out the DIT online or go to your local Chamber of Commerce or Trade Association. Worried how you will finance exports? There is Government assistance with that as well (or simply ask for payment up front!). The UK Government has recently refreshed the UK Export Plan and committed to massive assistance to help businesses, from very small to very large, to start exporting and to grow.

I recently attended a meeting where the Government, at the highest levels, was listening to ideas on how best to do this. It is not a fad; it is the future. The potential benefit to your profitability is simply too good an opportunity to miss.

Tony Goodman MBE
Tony Goodman MBE

Why, if it is so easy, aren’t more people doing it?
I can’t answer that as I don’t understand what is holding businesses back from trying. Having spent over 30 years personally selling many tens of millions of pounds worth of technology, chemicals, services, IT systems and food across the world, I have seen for myself the opportunities that this presents. New markets are opening all the time. Right now, African economies are growing rapidly, the Gulf is still strong, Latin America continues to open up and many Asian countries continue to grow and open up. The key as always is to look for opportunities with open doors, and ignore those doors locked tight.

And don’t be too shy to ask for help.

Tony Goodman MBE is a successful exporter and has been doing so through a variety of different businesses. He is currently Marketing Advisor at Forest and Co who specialise in offering guidance on branding, exporting and sales: www.forestandco.com

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