Scottish SMEs yet to fully grasp export opportunities, new research suggests


Manufacturing sector SMEs showed the strongest export capability, with 63 per cent of those surveyed saying they export outside the UK; followed by SMEs in the media/marketing/advertising sector, and the education sector.

Findings also show that the bigger the company’s annual turnover, the more likely they are to export; whilst companies with small annual turnover appear to shy away from exporting.

Roughly 60 per cent of SMEs with an annual turnover of £10 million or more are exporting, compared to 41 per cent of companies with an annual turnover of between £1 million and less than £10 million; and 24 per cent of companies with an annual turnover of less than £1 million. Scottish SMEs in their first year of trading are least inclined to export with just 13 per cent exporting outside the UK.

For the Scottish SMEs that do export, they primarily focus on the EU, with the US coming in second, other European countries outside the EU coming third, and Canada fourth.

Commenting on the findings, Emma Jones MBE, Founder of Enterprise Nation said: “Scotland is a great place to run a business with strong heritage and a skilled workforce. However it’s clear from these findings that there is still some nervousness from SMEs in the country about selling globally, despite the huge opportunity it brings.

“With the uncertainty of Brexit and the resulting uncertain UK economic landscape, it’s really important to spread your risk and broaden your customer base. Exporting more delivers this, which is why I’ll be talking on this topic and asking panelists for views at the Amazon Academy today to boost confidence amongst Scottish small business exporters.”

The findings are published on the day of the first ever Amazon Academy event held in Scotland – a free one-day event that gives practical support and guidance to Scottish SMEs wanting to grow their businesses online. Over 600 Scottish business leaders and tech start-ups are registered to attend the Amazon Academy today at the EICC in Edinburgh.

Currently more than 10,000 Scottish businesses use Amazon’s digital and physical infrastructure to export around the world, contributing to last year’s export total of £1.8bn from UK businesses selling through Amazon Marketplace – a 29 per cent year-on-year growth.

“The internet and technology have the power to democratise the ability to start and run your own business, and gives SMEs global reach that’s low cost and flexible,” said Doug Gurr, UK Country Manager, Amazon. “As long as you have a laptop, internet connection, and a great product, you can essentially be local and sell global. That’s why we’re in Edinburgh today – to show SMEs small and large, urban and rural – how selling online can help open their business to a global customer base and drive growth.”