Scottish exports soared to £23.9 billion, according to new research, fueled by a big rise in sales to the European Union and Asia. Food and drink were the biggest exports, with whisky sales ahead of expectations.
Business might be slow at home, but it seems more Scottish companies are looking further afield. The survey by Global Connections found exports grew by an impressive £1.6 billion in 2011. Sales to European countries increased by 14.7 per cent in 2011, while exports to Asia grew by 8.3 per cent.
The United States is still the biggest buyer of Scottish products. It’s followed by the Netherlands, France and Germany. But exports to Asian markets could be catching up, with food and drink sales to Japan increasing by a huge 25 per cent year-on-year.
Scotch whisky has seen particularly strong growth in the last year. According to the Scotch Whisky Association, exports are at record levels, and worth £4.2 bn a year. Producers are cashing in on a growing demand in emerging markets, targeting aspirational middle class drinkers.
Other popular products include seafood, shortbread and dairy products. Companies such as Mackies of Scotland are emphasising their history and quality ingredients to export to Singapore, Hong Kong and the USA.
The second biggest category on the list was petroleum, coke, and chemicals, valued at £3.7 bn. Other big exports include computers and electronic products and mechanical engineering.
It appears that the Scottish government is making good progress towards its target of increasing international exports by 50 per cent by 2017.
But many companies still aren’t taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the internet. Research by Lloyds Banking Group found that many Scottish companies still don’t use online marketing to reach foreign customers. They found only 13 per cent, or one in eight, shipped products internationally from orders placed online.
Another survey of small businesses by the Scottish Council for Development and Industry (SCDI) and Strathclyde Business School has found that only 10 per cent of respondents had a clear international digital strategy.
This could be a major missed opportunity. With internet use growing fast, especially in emerging markets, it’s a cost-effective way to reach new customers. For small and medium businesses, it’s also a relatively low-risk approach.
Scottish Development International is helping more businesses get started. Its Preparing to Export programme offers advice at all levels, including help with developing an online strategy.
And Lingo24’s internet marketing experts can also help. We’ve got a wealth of experience in every aspect of targeting overseas markets, from initial research to website set-up and online PR. Our native speaking translators can also ensure your message doesn’t get lost in translation. Do get in touch to find out more.
Picture: Benjamin A. Smith