Import and export is big business these days. The UK saw a total of £69.3 billion in traded goods at the end of last year, according to data from HM Revenue & Customs. Many small retail businesses across the UK rely on international income, but there are uncertain times ahead.

Clarity in uncertain times

With Brexit and another election looming, businesses are entering unchartered territory. Research by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), titled What Small Firms Want from Brexit, aims to restore some clarity for small businesses. The report reveals how businesses see themselves within a post-Brexit landscape.

Of those questioned, 32% of small businesses are currently involved in overseas trade – either exporting, importing or both. Focusing on trade across those businesses, 29% expect their levels of export to decrease, while 20% anticipate it will increase. From an import perspective, opinion is divided further: 31% of importers expect a decline compared to just 7%, which expect a rise.

The impact on business

We are all keen to find out what the UK leaving the EU means for us, but what does it mean for business? According to the FSB, Brexit could mean we see a “total review and refresh” of how support and financial schemes are delivered to businesses.

The FSB explains that in the short term we need stability – something that will come with the increased clarity promised in the Great Repeal Bill. In the longer term, businesses can look forward to a lighter touch regulatory system. As a result, businesses will see radical reforms that reduce the cost of doing business and boost growth and innovation.

New opportunities

For every wave of uncertainty created by Brexit, there is renewed optimism, too. PwC’s The World in 2050 report predicts that the UK will be the “fastest growing economy in the G7 over the whole period to 2050”. This is coupled with the prediction that it will remain in the top 10 economies, despite its exit from the EU. This positivity is mirrored in a survey conducted by Oxford Economics, which found that half of British small business executives believe they can increase revenue by at least 4% over the coming year.

As far as emerging markets are concerned, Brexit might have been just what they were waiting for. Emerging market assets have seen a significant revival and many of the emerging market economies (EMEs) are enjoying improved policymaking and business-friendly reforms – all of which are positive signs for potential importers.

A report by the trade credit insurer Atradius has reveal that the global EMEs to watch include India, Indonesia, Kenya, Peru, Chile and Bulgaria. The report also identifies the sectors likely to do well over the coming months, including retail, food and construction.

Support for business

Of course, small businesses need more than just confidence in the future – they need the right support. There are a wealth of new tools, services and organisations that have been specifically created with small importing/exporting businesses in mind.

The government offers advice for any businesses thinking about starting to import or starting to export. There is also plenty of information on how to go about starting your search for overseas customers and export opportunities.

Other government-backed schemes such as Exporting is Great and Open to Export are jam-packed with support for new, occasional and regular exporters alike. From the basics about pricing and logistics to events and case studies, these sites contain just about everything a small business owner needs to know about trading abroad.

Online platforms are another useful resource. Amazon Marketplace is just one way for small retail businesses to reach markets overseas. More than 60% of the UK’s SMEs selling on Amazon export internationally and the platform has created a suite of new tools and services to make the process as straightforward as possible.

When one door closes, another opens

Whatever the future holds, the UK economy and its small businesses will remain intrinsically linked. Just as the UK’s economy relies on the government getting its future trade deals right, the success of the UK’s small import and export businesses relies on those deals being made with them in mind.

Brexit and the election of President Trump may have created a less certain future, but if businesses are open to new opportunities, the world really could be their trading oyster.

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