In the last few years there has been a major drive from government to encourage more UK businesses to start trading internationally. Exporting often suits businesses that are in the high-growth, scale-up stage and British firms have the advantage of being able to trade on ‘Brand Britain’ – tapping Into the UK’s history of building prestige and quality brands.
There is still plenty of work for UK plc to do when it comes to exporting its good and services, but the latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) are encouraging, showing demand for British goods and services has risen to £636bn in the year to August 2018.
UK exports have also risen by £33bn – an increase of 5.5% compared to the same time the year previous. So, just how powerful Is ‘Brand Britain’?
The rise of small businesses exporting
According to foreign exchange company OFX, in 2018, more than half of Britain’s small businesses trading internationally (53%) said that their company’s ‘Britishness’ is a valuable asset when selling goods and services outside the UK.
This was particularly true for companies exporting to New Zealand (74%), Australia (60%), the USA (65%) and Russia (64%).
The appeal of ‘Brand Britain’ was also a major motivator for upping exports. Almost a quarter (24%) of small businesses planning to start or increase international sales in the next year said that their main reason for doing so was the growing international appetite for Brand Britain.
OFX’s Corporate Dealer Jake Trask added: “The rise of marketplaces like eBay and Amazon means it’s now easier than ever for small businesses to start selling overseas, no matter where they are based. Events like the Royal Wedding have shown that there’s a real opportunity to tap into the global appeal of Brand Britain.
“London brands don’t have the monopoly on ‘Britishness’, so I’d expect businesses across the UK to leverage their unique heritage and boost their international sales in the future.”
Businesses such as Bristol-based Pukka Herbs have used Brand Britain to its advantage.
CEO Karel Vandamme comments: “We will always be proud of our roots here in the UK and grateful for the sales platform Britain provided us with and the power of the prestige It has globally. We now consider Pukka Herbs to be a global brand, helping us to achieve our mission to bring as many people as possible closer to the incredible power of plants.
“Whilst we wholeheartedly support a thriving UK market, we also work with our partners globally who can give us a large platform to reach even more people so that our mission can continue with even greater ambition and purpose.”
The current UK government is very keen to promote the success of home-grown brands on the international business scene.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) has been running many different localised events across the country where they offer advice and provide mentors to help new companies to start exporting.
There are many companies that have taken advantage of the many opportunities provided to both large and small British brands.
One such company is Wicked Vision, a London-based toy company, that has been in business for 19 years and trading internationally for the last five.
Wicked Vision has seen an exponential rise within the sector over the last three years, as they have expanded across Australia, the USA and the Middle East.
Founder David Strang commented: “Being a British manufacturer in the toy industry is highly unusual and something to be very proud of. With over 90% of toys being made in China – having ‘Proudly British Made’ on the front of our packaging gives the product a higher perceived value and quality.
“Brand Britain is very much alive and well in international trade, however it can be a challenge to convince trading partners that we can offer value for money compared with China. Once this small obstacle is overcome, the sky is the limit.
“There is also plenty support offered by the government for British companies with an appetite for international trade. This can take a bit of digging – but it is definitely worth the effort.
“I would encourage British business owners to explore export opportunities as a fast, efficient and exciting way to grow their business.”
These thoughts are echoed by serviced-accommodation company, UnderTheDoormat.
The company’s founder Merilee Karr, comments: “Brand Britain helps our business sell internationally because of our ability to communicate the honest, trustworthy, and polite, attributes of British culture in our customer offer. This helps us to provide additional credibility in home accommodation, which is often viewed as a disruptive sector.
“As we operate at the top end of the market, being British and London-based helps to engender that confidence in our customer base so we can grow as a successful British business.”
Future of ‘Brand Britain’ and export
Britain is in the midst of one of its most controversial and complicated political eras in its history, and many businesses may seem to be shying away from the potentially risky move of exporting.
However, ‘Brand Britain’ is still as strong as ever, with huge markets such as North America and Asia still eager to buy British.
Recently, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) announced that even after Britain leaves the European Union, business will still be able to bid for public sector contracts, worth over £1.3tn worldwide.
Dr Liam Fox, who is International Trade Secretary, comments: “This is a hugely successful global agreement which will give British businesses certainty that they can continue bidding for £1.3tn worth of government procurement contracts overseas.
“This is an important win for British diplomacy as we take our place on the world stage, and we are looking forward to continuing to play a committed and active role in the GPA Committee and the WTO as a whole.”