Yorkshire engineering exporters flying high in international markets

4th June 2015

Yorkshire engineering exporters are flying high in international markets, with nearly half (44%) of firms generating more than 80% of their turnover from export markets, according to a survey by accountancy and business advisory firm BDO LLP and the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).

According to the BDO/IMechE research, the largest overseas markets for Yorkshire manufacturers are Western Europe and North America, with 56% of firms selling goods and services to these regions. The growing success of businesses breaking into Africa is also evident with just under a quarter now selling goods there. Two thirds of exporters in the region intend to grow international sales even further in the next five years, with South America, India and China being highlighted as key markets of interest. The UK is the 10th largest goods exporter in the world and the vast majority of engineers (78%) believe that it is the quality of UK products that holds the most value for overseas buyers, in stark contrast to price (only 20%). With product quality being the key to export success, constant innovation and re-invention is the prevalent strategy needed to maintain a seat at the global export table. However, only a third (33%) of Yorkshire exporters felt that their company was currently spending enough on R&D to keep its competitive position. This is of particular concern given the increasing sophistication of low cost economies such as India and China closing the gap on UK product quality. Jason Whitworth, partner and head of manufacturing at BDO in Yorkshire, said: -International trade is the cornerstone of sustainable, long term growth for Yorkshire manufacturers. With foreign markets accounting for such a large proportion of sales, it is clear that firms that refuse to rely on domestic markets and invest in their export capabilities are reaping the rewards. -Despite it still being one of our largest trading partners, economic weakness in the EU has created significant headwinds for exporters over the past few years placing increasing emphasis on emerging markets. The fact that firms are having problems cracking key geographies is of concern, however the rise of companies breaking into Africa is a good example of how export development can work well. -The Government must do everything it can to facilitate expansion into these foreign markets, be it through favourable tax breaks to exporters or direct support from departments such as UKTI. Companies must also play their part by maintaining global competitiveness through reinvestment into their business and products. The world is becoming an increasingly competitive place and this pressure is only set to increase.

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