Scottish SMEs failing to tap into export opportunities

The vast majority of small and medium-sized businesses in Scotland are failing to cash in on potential export opportunities, a new report suggests.

The Amazon report highlighted 'nervousness' among Scotland's SMEs when it comes to selling globally. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
The Amazon report highlighted 'nervousness' among Scotland's SMEs when it comes to selling globally. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor

Just 27 per cent of Scottish SMEs are currently selling their products and services outside the UK, according to the YouGov survey published by internet giant Amazon.

The findings also show that the bigger the company’s annual turnover, the more likely they are to export.

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Some 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 £1m and £10m. Just 24 per cent of firms with an annual turnover of less than £1m export their wares.

Scottish SMEs in their first year of trading are least inclined to export with just 13 per cent of them targeting markets outside the UK.

For the businesses that do export, they primarily focus on the EU (83 per cent), with the US coming in second (50 per cent), other European countries outside the EU coming third (30 per cent), and Canada fourth (27 per cent).

Manufacturing sector SMEs showed the strongest export capability, with 63 per cent of those surveyed saying they export beyond the UK, followed by SMEs in the media/marketing/advertising sector (57 per cent).

The report coincides with the first ever Amazon Academy event held in Scotland, aimed at providing support and guidance to SMEs wanting to grow their businesses online. More than 600 Scottish business leaders and tech start-ups were registered to attend the event at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.

Emma Jones, the founder of Enterprise Nation, which has helped thousands of people start and grow their businesses since its launch in 2005, 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.”

Jones, who was due to talk at the event, added: “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.”

Amazon’s Doug Gurr said: “As long as you have a laptop, internet connection, and a great product, you can essentially be local and sell global.”