Cross-border trade is a significant slice of the economy – if you need any persuasion the numbers speak for themselves. The latest figures indicate that it’s reached an all-time high of over £6.5billion /€7.4billion. In fact, it’s growing at an average rate of 4 per cent per year. Put simply, those figures are too big to ignore.
In the last economic downturn, cross-border trade opportunities were a huge factor for driving growth and recovery for many businesses. This time around, it’s proving to be the same. In the face of the global pandemic, it’s been remarkably robust says Anne-Marie McAteer, Project Manager with InterTradeIreland’s Acumen programme.
‘Essential to growth strategy’
The resilience of cross-border trade is clear in InterTradeIreland’s latest annual report. Through our Trade and Innovation programmes, we generated more than £90.1million / €100.1million in 2020. The supports directly impacted over 3,000 SMEs and supported the creation of 2,000 jobs.
It shows that for companies that want to move forward, exporting to the opposite jurisdiction is an option to seriously consider. Sales are crucial to the success of any firm, and for small businesses with limited resources or first time exporters, the cross-border market is the perfect place to begin.
Both economies, North and South, hold a number of advantages for companies across the island. Geographically, it is the closest export market and unlike other European markets, no language barrier exists. With cross-border trade at an all-time record, substantial opportunities exist in both jurisdictions also.
InterTradeIreland’s research also highlights that 75 per cent of businesses that have gone on to sell further afield, actually started their export journey through entrance into the other market on the island. It is a good option to try exporting for the first time.
With that being said, some businesses may lack the knowledge, skills and capability to access a new market, in the opposite jurisdiction. The good news is that there is support available.
Support for first-time exporters
For those businesses considering exporting for the first time, you may be unsure whether cross-border trade is right for you. Not to mention there are a number of financial, logistical and regulatory questions, which you may need, answered. If you’re in the early stage of assessing your cross-border potential, then the Trade Accelerator Voucher (TAV) can help.
The TAV programme provides businesses with financial assistance of up to £1,000/€1,200 towards obtaining professional advice in relation to issues such as, regulation, taxation and currency, as well as help to scope the potential cross-border sales and marketing opportunities for your business.
It provides support to businesses at a relatively early stage, helping them to explore if they have the capacity and capability to successfully export on a cross-border basis.
Planning for recovery
When Covid-19 hit, InterTradeIreland was quick to react with a number of supportive measures and emergency funding for businesses, however now we are planning for the recovery.
Before the pandemic, InterTradeIreland had looked at major areas of opportunity for cross-border trade and business development. The area of supply chains are becoming more important than ever - there is an obvious need to diversify supply chains and make them more robust.
To move forward, we’re helping firms take a strategic look at their supply chains, and supporting SMEs to develop and win new business through sales development programmes such as Elevate and Acumen.
The Elevate programme is designed for micro-enterprises that want to identify a new cross-border market, new customers and to win new business.
Up to £5,000/€5,750 funding is available for specialist sales and marketing support. This can be used to help businesses develop a cross-border sales and marketing plan.
During 2020, companies that had previously completed the Elevate programme reported a business development value of £2.1m/€2.3m and an impact of 198 new jobs. In addition, firms that benefitted from sales support through Elevate have an increased understanding of trading within the cross-border market and how to develop a successful cross-border sales and marketing strategy.
For more established businesses who are ready to put their ‘feet on the ground’ and take a more formal step onto the export ladder, the Acumen programme will help to fund an experienced and skilled sales resource, to identify new opportunities and win new sales in the cross-border market. Acumen will fund up to £15,000/€18,750 for a Full-time position or £8,000/€10,000 for a Part-time position.
Companies who have availed of Acumen have in 2020 reported an average of business value of £22m/€24.4m and a jobs impact of 602.
So, not only can cross-border trade assist with recovery, but the knowledge transfer of trade expertise can be used to export further afield, and support business growth for years to come.
Real opportunities for cross-border cooperation
Cross-border trade can be a huge driver towards economic recovery but it can also enable real business growth for the future. Looking further ahead there are many tangible opportunities for cross-border cooperation that will deliver mutual benefits in terms of business development and international competitiveness.
If you are interested in the benefits of cross-border trade as a means to support your business, InterTradeIreland can help.
In addition to our programme supports, we have the knowledge and expertise to guide you with your first step into the export market. Find out now how we’re supporting sales growth.