UK SMEs are moving away from Europe and towards Asia and North America for both import and export activity, according to a report from Western Union International.
The Western Union International Trade Monitor Report is based on a poll of more than 1,000 UK SMEs who trade internationally.
It reveals that almost half (44%) now cite China as their main import market – up from 30% last year. Almost one-quarter (23%) now also see the country as a main export market.
The number who now see India as a main import market has also doubled across the same period (from 10% to 19%) but the proportion who quote it as an export market has stayed unchanged at 10%.
Import from North American markets has increased from 26% to 35% since 2014 and 23% of SMEs export to the continent – the same as 2014 levels. Meanwhile there has been a significant fall in trade activity with Europe. Three years ago almost 8 in 10 British SMEs said it was their main import market; now that figure stands at less than 50%.
Tony Crivelli, UK managing director of Western Union Business Solutions, said the changes may in part be down to the fact that the European market has been “incredibly volatile in recent months”.
“Meanwhile Asia and North America have continued to grow as key trading partners and they are quickly catching up to their European counterpart,” he said.
“Despite this volatility, the ITM shows that British SMEs are optimistic about the economy and many are forecasting growth in international markets this year. In fact, the outlook is very positive for the second half of 2015.
“As British business looks beyond Europe for trading, foreign exchange hedging and risk management will become vitally important. Managing cashflow in multiple currencies is challenging even for the largest organisations, and SMEs need to have the right tools in place to ensure they can manage exchange rate volatility.”
Further reading: From Corby to the Kremlin – SMEs gets Russian love