Only 16% of small business exporters are getting government help

LAUNCHPAD: A third of small exporters think it's difficult to access government support. Must do better.

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 31 Jul 2014

The government really wants to get the UK exporting, targeting £1trn of exports by 2020, but is failing pretty miserably at the moment. Just 16% of small businesses that export have used government support, which could show self-sufficiency were it not for the third of those that also think it’s difficult to access state help.

Another 45% said they were unsure if it was easy or tricky to get government support, according to the survey of 566 small exporters (with fewer than 50 employees) by the Federation of Small Business. Which adds up to a decidedly useless effort on the coalition’s part to advertise its services to small firms, especially as 57% of the 90 that had used asked for government help said it was in fact effective.

Last week MT reported the government was slashing millions from its schemes to help small companies export. It may well have used the low take-up when justifying switching the cash to supporting medium-sized businesses, which seems a darn sight more likely than it realising it hadn’t gotten the message out about the support out there.

The survey of almost 2,500 small companies also revealed only 23% export, although nearly three quarters of those that don’t claimed their products or services weren’t suitable for shipping beyond our shores.

Of those that do export, 26% cited red tape and bureaucracy, difficulty finding customers and currency fluctuations as challenges. Pleasingly, only 21% saw the value of exports fall in the three months before the survey was conducted (between 8th and 20th May), while 15% expected it to drop in the next quarter and 38% think it will increase.

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