Number of Humber businesses exporting their goods internationally is on the up

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 24 Apr 2017

The number of Humber companies reporting an increase in international trade has jumped by almost a third over the last quarter.

Uncertainty over Brexit appears to have done little to stifle the region's appetite for selling overseas, with 44 per cent of local firms reporting an increase in export sales – up from 15 per cent in the previous quarter.

The figures, which come from the Hull and Humber Chamber of Commerce's Quarterly Economic Survey (QES) also reveal 44 per cent of Hull firms are seeing an increase in international orders – up from 20 per cent at the end of 2016.

Chamber chief executive Dr Ian Kelly, pictured below, said: "Businesses in the Humber are determined to use the benefits of offshore renewables growth and Hull City of Culture 2017 to make the Humber the "power" in the Northern Powerhouse.

"So it is pleasing to see international trade making good progress in the Humber in the first quarter of 2017, as businesses simply get on with what they do best."

Dearing Plastics is one East Yorkshire firm that is capitalising on a burgeoning demand from overseas.

In March, the company more than doubled its workspace after relocating to the Humber Enterprise Park in Brough - a move driven by an increase in sales both at home and overseas.

Director Andy Harris said: "Dearing Plastics started more than 30 years ago as a Hull firm but now the business is international. We export all over the world, and are now the UK's biggest manufacturer of first-aid boxes. We currently have a shipment ready to go to New Zealand, and have new orders coming in.

"In the past, a lot of UK manufacturing went to China, but we have seen a repatriation of manufacturing back to Britain as the quality is often better and any potential problems with products can be smoothed out a lot quicker. Over the past few years Dearing Plastics has grown exports by almost 30 per cent, and we anticipate this figure will grow further now we are in the new premises with more space and larger equipment."

On the South Bank, online flooring specialist Carpet Runners UK is also enjoying phenomenal success in new markets.

“Quite simply, ‘Brexit’ has been fantastic for us,” said managing director Myles Shaw, who is also at the helm of Freeman Street retail store Grimsby Carpet Warehouse. “Rather than focusing on what we will lose – like the rest of the country seem to be doing – I have been focusing on where we can gain.”

ON A ROLL: Myles Shaw with an order at Carpet Runners UK. 

When European sales dipped in the online business from very late June 2016, he built on what was coming to him, looking deeper at new markets, taking the business to new territories while building on that “special relationship” with the USA. And while raw material increases of between 2.5 per cent and 10 per cent have been felt, the top line sales have more than made up for the additional costs.

“We didn’t know Brexit had affected us until I started getting questions about why so much of what we did was being shipped to America,” Mr Shaw said. All orders were coming in though the UK site, with the only difference being the postage options by those clicking away in homes and businesses around the world.

“When Brexit happened, European sales dropped off the radar. Initially we thought ‘that’s not great’ and put it down to uncertainty, and felt sure they would pick back up.

“They never picked up, but we were getting more and more sales from America. I didn’t think it was Brexit particularly, I didn’t get that involved, I’m not overly political, and we were busy doing what we were doing.

“But the sales continued, at a fantastic level.”

 The Chamber's latest QES figures show UK sales among Humber firms also performed strongly in the first quarter, though home orders fell back slightly.

There was also encouraging news on the employment front, with 29 per cent of firms reporting an increase in their workforce over the last three months.

However, there were fewer permanent positions on offer and slightly fewer full time roles. The survey also showed a rise in part-time temporary jobs.

The number of companies planning to increase their staffing levels over the next quarter was up, though the well-documented skills shortage has left more firms reporting difficulties in recruiting suitable staff.

The number of Hull firms planning to invest in new plant, machinery, or equipment, has dipped, however more firms say they are now planning to invest in staff training compared with 2016.

Looking ahead, the number of firms expecting their turnover increase has increased by 12 per cent, with a similar rise in the number of companies anticipating a rise in profits over the next 12 months.

Business rates and competition were cited as causing the biggest headaches among local business owners, with inflation and exchange rates also proving to be a concern.

Dr Kelly said: "The domestic market is a little quieter, but with recruitment performing well, and turnover and profit expectations adopting a positive stance, 2017 has got off to a solid start.

"We hope the local economy's good progress in Q1 continues in the coming months as we face up to a General Election, and helps to create more jobs and prosperity in the Humber".

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