SMEs are reluctant to expand overseas, with only a quarter planning to increase their international sales over the next year, according to the latest survey by Baker Tilly.
In Yorkshire and the North East the figure was just one in five!
The survey of 750 UK SMEs found that the main reason holding businesses back is perceived cost, with 90 per cent of respondents indicating that international expansion would be too expensive, while 70 per cent said they feared a loss of control.
SMEs in Yorkshire and the North East agreed that cost was the major reason, but a lack of knowledge was also a factor cited by 70 per cent of respondents.
The survey showed a marked difference between London and the rest of the UK. While almost half (44 per cent) of London-based SMEs were active internationally, in most other regions, the equivalent figure was generally between 20-30 per cent, ranging from 20 per cent in Wales and Northern Ireland to 31 per cent in Yorkshire and the North East.
The survey found that some industry sectors, by their nature, were more active in international markets.
Between 60-70 per cent of manufacturing, food and drink, and energy and natural resources companies reported that they have international or export operations, and over 50 per cent of manufacturing and energy and natural resources businesses said they plan to do even more overseas next year.
Neil Sevitt, Baker Tilly’s head of SME Services in Leeds, said:
‘Coming out of a tough recession, it’s understandable that some SMEs in Yorkshire and the North East are hesitant about expanding internationally.
“It’s not for the faint hearted, and there can be pitfalls for the inexperienced or unprepared, but companies would do well to find out more about export opportunities through the UKTI, and consider other options such as cross border M&A, which can provide a low risk route into new markets.”