Chambers of Commerce are recognised across the UK and around the world as leading supporters of international trade. Chambers deliver trade support and advice, as well as a range of specialist services, to businesses of all sizes in Britain’s exporting community.

Given the need to rebalance the UK economy towards exports to secure recovery and long-term prosperity, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) commissioned a major international trade business survey in Q1 2012 – to which 8,073 businesses responded. The survey clearly demonstrates that Exporting is Good for Britain.

Since the BCC last surveyed Chamber members in 2011, the share of responding businesses actively exporting goods and services from the UK rose from just over a fifth (22%) to nearly a third (32%).

Yet the survey also shows that a number of challenges, barriers and obstacles remain. The BCC and the Chamber Network will be working hard over the coming years to overcome these obstacles, working closely with companies and with Government, and will help to unlock the potential of Britain’s existing and future exporters.

The majority of exporters (nearly three quarters) have no formal export strategy and usually capture overseas opportunities reactively after receiving sales enquiries and orders. While even the majority of large exporting companies that responded claimed not to be working to a formal strategy, there is still a clear size divide: SMEs are less likely to possess one. BCC research identifies a strategic approach to exporting as selecting overseas markets as part of a business strategy for new growth; taking one market at a time based on market research.

Given the size and persistence of the UK’s trade deficit, there is a real need for more companies to adopt a proactive and strategic approach. To achieve this, the BCC believes there must be improved access to quality export training (including in market research), and better-targeted publicly-funded support for promotional activity. In the private sector, all business support and networking groups must do more to help potential exporters constructively across the country.