Santander’s fourth annual Trade Barometer report also reveals that many businesses believe increased international trade offers an opportunity to mitigate the impacts of the crisis.
Stepping back to leap forward
The report shows that less than a third of UK businesses (32%) say their performance has improved over the past 12 months - the lowest number since this research began in 2017.
Many businesses are therefore battening down the hatches. Just 36% expect to hire new staff over the next 12 months, while only 39% intend to invest in product development. These figures have fallen from 50% and 42% respectively from the spring. 71% say coronavirus is likely to have a negative impact over the next year.
Nevertheless, the Trade Barometer data suggests large numbers of UK businesses are determined to press ahead with their plans for growth – and that many see international expansion as a key priority. The number of businesses that regard international markets as more important as a result of coronavirus is more than five times higher than the number who say overseas trade has become less imperative.
Among businesses that currently trade only in the UK, but have aspirations to begin exporting, 55% say the pandemic has increased the importance of international markets. Almost nine in ten businesses (87%) remain committed to their existing international markets despite coronavirus.
Significantly, confidence in future growth is higher among businesses that already trade internationally or who are about to do so for the first time. 59% of the former group and 66% of the latter expect to expand in the next three years, compared with just 53% of firms that operate solely in the UK.