British SMEs are making a concerted effort to counteract the trade deficit, according to FedEx
Ellen Forster

FedEx’s Martin Davidian on why South East SMEs are key to reducing the trade deficit

According to new research published by FedEx Express, a subsidiary of FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) and the world’s largest express transportation company, British SMEs are making a concerted effort to counteract the trade deficit, which currently stands at £2.8bn.

FedEx found that SMEs in the South East are exporting £25k more per month to Europe than they import, well above the national average of £18k.

I spoke to Martin Davidian, managing director sales UK & Ireland for FedEx Express; he believes optimism for SMEs in the South East is high.

When asked whether he sees the export market continuing to grow, Martin’s response was resoundingly positive, he said: “The results from our survey indicate ‘yes’, optimism is very high in the region and there is an expectation that this rate will continue to grow. In addition, 58% respondents to the survey did make it clear that they would appreciate more support from trade bodies, the government and other sources. I think that’s where FedEx have a role to play, and a responsibility to a degree, to help bolster that growth.

“One way we are doing that is with our small business portal on FedEx.com, which is a tool small businesses can use to get advice and guidance on how they might take advantage of export opportunities.

“I think the other reason we can be optimistic is that the world is growing a lot smaller, thanks to the internet and ecommerce, and supply chains are becoming less complicated.

“For small businesses who can be dynamic and agile, providing they have sufficient support, there is no reason why they shouldn’t be able to find success in export.

There are currently 5.2 million small businesses in the UK. The average SME is exporting £553k to Europe each year, and only importing £535k during this period, producing an £18k net surplus that goes towards reducing the trade deficit.

Martin commented: “Imagine if we took the 45% of SMEs in the South East which don’t currently export, we can help them access and be confident about exporting then the impact on the trade deficit could be quite profound.”

Of those exporting, 64% of SMEs in the South East are producing high value products. For Martin, this is key to the region’s success: “The net surplus generated in the regions around London in the South East is actually higher than the national average. There is a wealth of high value exporting in the South East, largely down to a high number of manufacturers exporting in the region.

“The South East, which is traditionally known for its service sector, has a very strong manufacturing sector exporting all over the world.”

Bremont is a luxury watch manufacturer which, with support from FedEx, now exports its British-made products internationally. Martin believes it’s companies like Bremont, which was founded in Henley-on-Thames, are contributing to the region’s high value export market: “The company aims to bring the art of watchmaking back to the UK. We have helped catapult Bremont onto the global stage where they compete with established players all across Europe.

“They have found success by reaching out, finding the right advice, finding out how to penetrate their niche markets and, as a result, they now have watch boutiques in Hong Kong and in New York.”

“If we continue to do what we do with our dotcom portal, where small businesses can access help and the UKTI and Chambers of Commerce underpin that support, we will continue to see a rise in small businesses exporting and thus a reduction in the trade deficit.”

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