A third of UK businesses expect to grow their international activity in the year ahead, according to a survey. Western Union Business Solutions International Trade Monitor (ITM), a quarterly economic confidence survey of more than 1000 UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) engaged in international trade, found that 83% of SMEs felt confident about the UK’s economic climate, increasing from 81% in the previous quarter. Significantly, the proportion of businesses saying they are ‘very confident’ about the UK’s current economic climate has increased to 15% this quarter – it was just 7% for the same period last year.

“It is encouraging to see that, for the second quarter in a row, more than one-third of SMEs have seen business revenues increase as a result of their international trade activity, with many anticipating further growth in this space in the coming months," said Tony Crivelli, managing director, Europe at Western Union Business Solutions


The findings show that UK SMEs are likely to increase their international activity in the coming year, with the average number of countries that UK businesses typically trade with rising from 2.1 to 2.3 countries over the past two quarters. In addition, nearly half of respondents (47%) say they have increased the number of countries they do business with in the last 12 months.  This growing trend looks set to continue into 2015, with more than a third (34%) of UK businesses saying they are confident that their international activity will grow over the next 12 months.

The International Trade Monitor also demonstrates the importance that UK-based SMEs place on export markets for their business. A quarter (24%) of UK SME business revenue comes from exports, far more than that of other Western economies, such as the US (18%) and Canada (12%). Additionally, more than a third of SMEs (38%) say that exports comprise a greater percentage of revenues than 12 months ago.

Of the SMEs surveyed, 43% expect exports to account for a greater revenue proportion in the next year, up from 40% the previous quarter.