International trade has never been so important to the prospects of businesses in the UK. The growing international ambitions of British businesses has been a consistent theme of Santander’s biannual Trade Barometer research since its launch in 2017. But in the wake of the economic challenges caused by COVID-19, the stakes have been raised; more than a fifth of businesses say that international markets have become more important to them as they pursue recovery.
For some businesses that will mean trading overseas for the first time – potentially identifying markets to export to or importing from international suppliers to improve supply chain resilience. Others may have more experience of working with global partners but feel that now is the time to expand into new territories.
For both groups, the potential value of international trade is enormous, but the route to exploiting that potential is full of obstacles. Thousands of businesses surveyed through Santander’s Trade Barometer research have repeatedly identified similar challenges standing in the way of their aspirations. These recurring issues can be divided into four main groups, with businesses reporting the need to:
- Identify growth opportunities. The idea of international trade can be overwhelming; businesses are often unsure which markets to target first (or next), or how to identify the most attractive opportunities.
- Cope with bureaucracy and regulation. Red tape has repeatedly topped the list of international trade challenges identified by Trade Barometer participants; many businesses have become even more anxious since the UK’s departure from the European Union.
- Manage logistics. Businesses know that clinching the deal is only part of the story. They worry about how to ship goods to and from overseas markets, particularly with transport costs on the rise since the outbreak of COVID-19.
- Secure supportive banking services. Businesses contemplating overseas trade need more than just access to finance, they want a banking partner that can provide a broad range of international services.
Santander believes that these challenges can be overcome, but only by those businesses that have trusted connections with partners, advisers, and service providers with the expertise and experience to help. Building these connections, in readiness for each new challenge as it emerges, is the key to successful international trade, whether businesses are working with overseas partners for the first time or scaling into new markets.
Follow the links below to read about the six key steps that businesses with international ambitions now need to take, the problems that come with each of those steps, and how to make the connections to solve them.