Why exporting is great for Jersey
By Alexia McClure, head of operations, Jersey Business
Jersey Business has just launched an Export Club, designed to provide practical knowledge, help and support to Jersey companies that are, or have the opportunity to sell products and services outside the Island.
Why, you might ask are we focusing on encouraging international trade from Jersey?
All the evidence shows that small and medium-sized businesses that export are more sustainable, innovate more, create more skills and jobs and cope better with the upheavals in their economy. These businesses grow faster and their employees usually earn more than those that just sell domestically.
Perhaps most importantly for Jersey, having created a very successful economy led by financial services, we now need to encourage other parts of the economy to grow thereby creating diversity and reducing our reliance on one sector. Generating international sales is one of the most fundamental ways in which this can be achieved because businesses that sell off-island are not limited by the constraints of the local economy.
International trade used to be regarded as something that only large, long-established manufacturing companies were able to do, but now a huge range of businesses across a wide range of sectors are finding their place in the world.
However, very few companies that we see starting up have an international marketplace in mind from the very start and a significant number of established businesses only focus on the local market. We at Jersey Business think this is a missed opportunity.
Jersey has built its economy and reputation on its trading history. From woollen jumpers and fish to the fulfilment industry and finance, Jersey has successfully developed exportable products or services for hundreds of years. This outwardly focused entrepreneurial spirit needs to be reinvigorated across all the sectors of the economy.
We are lucky to have some high profile and internationally recognised brands. The Jersey cow, Jersey Royals and Jersey oysters are all significant and visible exports for the Island. All in all, Jersey exports £156.6 million of goods, the majority going to the UK (88% of exports), then EU (8%), Guernsey (3%) and the rest of the world (1%).
We know too that Jersey’s service industry generates a considerable amount of off-Island revenue. Most of this is associated with Financial Services and ancillary industries including the digital sector and this just goes to show that the opportunity to increase and expand export activity in services is entirely possible.
And, with visitor numbers continually increasing, Visit Jersey provides an exciting example of an industry revival that is generating significant new off-Island revenue with benefits across multiple industries.
The good news is that with the increase in transport links from Jersey, the expansion of the internet and the development of e-commerce it has never been easier to trade across borders. Web-based eBay, for example, reports that 90% of its UK commercial sellers are exporters and many can match the largest traders in the world in terms of their geographical reach.
So, if it’s so easy why aren’t more businesses doing it?
Prior to launching the Export Club we asked local businesses if and how much they were exporting and what the barriers to expanding this activity were.
We found the two main obstacles to being a proactive exporter were a lack of knowledge and understanding about the exporting process and the difficulty in identifying and then finding the right contacts in a new market.
It also became clear that many businesses that have only ever serviced the local market do not actually recognise that they have an exportable product. Regardless of whether the offer is a product or service, it seems that many business only export when responding to a customer enquiry rather than proactively searching out new markets.
So, again why an Export Club? We hope that by sharing knowledge, advice and support from people involved in delivering products and services abroad, we will enable businesses to export more and encourage those not currently doing so to realise the possibilities it provides. Give us a call if you are interested in finding out more.