Trade and Export Forecast
Malcolm Cohen, Managing Director of Trade at Newable, takes a look back at the year so far and outlines what to expect in 2021, along with potential opportunities for businesses that have exporting plans.
Perspective on where things are heading
The heart of the UK economy (small and medium sized enterprises) have certainly had a different year than the global tech giants. While the likes of Microsoft and Amazon are thriving, seeing record high usership and are hiring thousands to cope with demand, small businesses across the UK are wondering how much longer they can stay afloat. During tough economic times, businesses that have diversified their risk through trade have always weathered the storm better than their peers. Still, the unique trials and tribulations beset upon us in 2020 have left all tested. Newable’s Advice team has had a front row seat to the plight of the British economy as we’ve worked to help companies survive the crisis and stabilise their business. There have been gains as well. We have all pivoted, reinvented, retrained and repositioned ourselves to deliver goods and services in a pandemic. Newable Advice has delivered tools and expertise to companies across the UK positioning them to not only survive but to grow as economies and market stabilise. And that is why, despite being in the depths of the second wave, we have hope for the future and believe that 2021 will be a year that British businesses regain their footing and grow.
Where our clients could thrive
In fact, we believe our clients could thrive by doing what they do best. Being innovators. Moving more quickly than their larger bureaucratic competitors. Finding solutions to the things which are not working as well as they could be globally whether it be effective contact tracing, improved logistic solutions for cold storage distribution, leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other tools to better understand customers within the online marketplace. Sure, they lack the cash reserves and resource of the tech giants flying high on COVID forced digital transformations benefiting their platforms, but those gaps are exactly where Newable seeks to meet founders and entrepreneurs, providing the funding, tools and expert guidance needed to commercialise their innovation and scale globally.
The cracks left by COVID in the UK economy are clear. Our high street retail, vulnerable family owned small businesses facing lower foot traffic and health restrictions which have wreaked havoc on their business models, continue to haemorrhage. Their pain is increasingly felt by their landlords and those in the commercial space business. Customer and business needs have changed dramatically. Huge gaps exist between product/service providers and consumers. Every good business starts by identifying these market gaps, these unmet needs and challenges and developing a solution. Thus, tremendous opportunity exists for those businesses that can solve these challenges either revealed or created by the pandemic. The opportunity spans those sectors hardest hit in tourism and hospitality but extends as well across B2C models that are struggling with effective engagement and distribution. Innovators that solve these problems for the UK and beyond will have global growth opportunities. And considering the potential of greater market access brought about from prospective trade agreements with the likes of the U.S., Canada, and Asian economies (including the recent FTA between the UK and Japan), ambitious British business that act now to gain market share stand to benefit tremendously following the implementation of new trade deals.
All of our clients will face changes to trading post-Brexit. Those that plan ahead are now assessing for risks, and building resilience will weather remaining uncertainties around a deal or no-deal Brexit well. Those that choose a wait-and-see approach could cause more friction for themselves in the long run. Product companies with complex supply chains, particularly in sectors such as transportation equipment and pharma, must now consider the additional costs and other resource dedicated to navigating custom duties. The pandemic ravaged retail and service sectors who will continue to face their own uncertainty well into the spring and summer considering the global second wave and logistical limitations which will prevent wide scale vaccination being achieved until 2022.
Overall predictions for 2021
Predictions for 2021 six months ago still held on to the hope of a V shaped recovery, but writing amidst another nationwide lockdown, it’s clear that 2021 will not be the year we get back to normal. Undoubtedly, we never will—we’ve achieved technology adaptation and adoption at rates that would make a change management scholar’s heads spin. British companies that manage to leverage technology and product innovations into relevancy in the COVID-19 economy demands of Omnichannel fluency and agility have a chance of surviving long enough to get to the other side. Less responsive companies will most certainly buckle under the strain. It’s a brutal way to choose winners and losers to be sure. It will most certainly take a swing at business confidence and require entrepreneurs to rely more than ever before on the advisers in their corner—and they can certainly count on Newable being there with the expert guidance they need to make it to the other side.