The latest statistics for 2019 show that despite overall export orders declining, the number of manufacturers exporting their goods overseas is at historic levels last seen in 2005.
The latest Lloyds Bank UK International Trade Index reveals that 81.2 per cent of UK manufacturers exported goods in Q3 of 2019, up a fraction on Q2 despite difficult ongoing trading conditions both globally and within the EU.
Around 75 per cent of small manufacturers with less than 50 employees reported export orders, with the proportion of larger manufacturers exporting closer to the 85 per cent mark. The strongest performers were the chemicals and plastics sector, and luxury and sporting goods.
The rising number of exporters is all the more remarkable given that total exports are continuing to fall, with the current phase of falling exports the worst recorded since 2012.
Conditions are particularly difficult in the automotive sector, where exports have steadily declined over the past year-and-a-half due to falling production in Europe and the move towards electric vehicles.
In the coming months, new US tariffs on EU exports are expected to pose an additional challenge to British manufacturers in food and drink and textiles and clothing - despite these industries outperforming other manufacturing sectors for much of the past two years.
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Manufacturers that did report a rise in exports in Q3 cited efforts to diversify into new markets, with nine out of the UK’s top ten export markets experiencing economic growth in the last quarter.
The report singled out Japan as a particularly notable opportunity - it is the world’s third largest economy yet only the UK’s eleventh largest export market.
Gwynne Master and Edward Thurman, Managing Directors at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said:
“Change is in the air, whether it’s the move to electric cars impacting the automotive industry, a turn in the global electronics cycle, or climate change protests in London. In this environment there is an opportunity and a necessity for firms to compete by innovating, adapting and collaborating across their supply chains.”