European SMEs Express Openness To Exporting More - With Considerable UK Exception

BE 01/17/17


Europe’s smaller companies are increasingly turning to exporting as a way to grow revenue, according to a survey commissioned by UPS (NYSE: UPS) in the second and third quarter of 2016. The exception, however, is in the UK where export confidence dropped significantly in the months following the June ‘Brexit’ referendum on EU membership.

The UPS European SME Exporting Insights survey includes insights from 12,815 owners and directors of Small and Medium-sized Business (SMEs) in eight European countries. The research shows more small business owners are exporting, and reporting above average revenue growth. According the 4th annual study, those SMEs that export grow faster than other companies.

One clear factor affecting the results in the 2016 survey is the June UK referendum vote to leave the EU. In the UK, responses were gathered before and after the vote. The results showed a significant loss of UK SME confidence in exporting by the third quarter. Before the vote, 36% of UK SMEs forecasted an increase in exports, but that fell to 20% after the vote.

In contrast, expectations changed adversely in all other markets surveyed. Companies expecting an increase in exports rose from 26% in the second quarter to 33% in the third quarter. The rise in exporting in all surveyed markets has shifted the UK’s position; formerly the second most export-intensive market after Germany, the UK is now in sixth place.

“In the SME sector, exporters report higher revenue growth and are more confident about future performance,” said Nando Cesarone, President of UPS Europe. “The 2016 study shows over half of those small business directors that exported products saw their revenues increase during the last three years. However, only 31% of small business owners that did not export saw an increase.”

The proportion of SMEs that export has risen overall, sharply in some cases. These SMEs report positive forecasts, with the majority of companies in all markets expecting exports to be stable or growing. Key findings include:

  • The proportion of SMEs that export has grown in all markets, including in the UK.  SMEs are most likely to export in Germany
  • The EU remains the most important export market for European SMEs, followed by the U.S. The proportion of companies exporting elsewhere is growing in all markets except for Italy and the UK.

For the first time, non-exporters were asked about their openness to exporting, and their forward-looking business priorities. These results were combined to create a weighted scale called the Export Readiness Index. It is a snapshot of the readiness of European SMEs to make the transition to exporting.

According to the Index, the top three issues companies need to address to begin exporting are taking advantage of e-commerce, learning to grow in unfamiliar markets, and obtaining market intelligence. SMEs in France, the UK and Spain scored as the most ‘export ready’. “We are here to help companies reliably navigate the complexities of cross-border trade,” said Cesarone. “Our customers get access to dedicated brokerage experts who make exporting easy.”

About the SME Exporting Insights Study 2016

The 2016 research surveyed 12,815 SME owners, and managing, commercial, business and sales development directors between 14 June and 24 August 2016. Interviews were conducted in the following countries: Belgium (1111), France (1250), Germany (1249), Italy (1667), Netherlands (1999), Poland (1790), Spain (1247) and UK (2502). 2016 was the first year for the survey to include Spain.

Business information specialists Dun & Bradstreet identified the companies participating in the study from the industrial manufacturing & automotive (IM&A), retail, high-tech and healthcare industries.

About UPS

UPS (NYSE: UPS) is a global leader in logistics, offering a broad range of solutions including transporting packages and freight; facilitating international trade, and deploying advanced technology to more efficiently manage the world of business. Headquartered in Atlanta, UPS serves more than 220 countries and territories worldwide. The company can be found on the web at and its corporate blog can be found at To get UPS news direct, visit or follow @UPS_News.


For more information about this press release, contact:

Maarten Verbanck