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Will Brand UK bounce back from the pandemic?

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  • Feb 26,2024
  • By Admin

Optimism is returning to trade and commerce sectors, particularly within the UK. Certainly, the past 18 months have been challenging for a number of reasons. Chief among these, the pandemic raised an unprecedented number of challenges around all aspects of commerce; from manufacturing and production, to retail and shipping.

The UK economy shrunk by nearly 10% over the course of last year, and is anticipated to grow this year by only 6.8%, despite the relaxation of social restrictions and the added certainty businesses now have when developing their strategies. It highlights how long the road to recovery will be.

However, despite the macroeconomic challenges that persist, there is much cause for optimism. When it comes to trade, the UK has an ace up its sleeve, which if played appropriately, could give it a significant competitive edge for years to come – Brand UK.

Some may think there is a hubristic element to the idea that British goods will naturally attract customers due to the country’s reputation for quality production and service. However, Brand UK has played a substantial and quantifiable role in the UK’s export sector, particularly in recent years.

Brand UK is more than just rhetoric

In research conducted by Barclays Corporate Banking, it was found that nearly four in ten (39%) global customers express a preference for products made in the UK, over their domestic markets or competitors.

This has the potential, if guided appropriately, to offer British businesses the opportunity to establish themselves as behemoths in lucrative far-flung markets. For instance, consider the impact of the pandemic on retail. With traditional brick and mortar retail shuttered for much of the past two years, more retailers have been forced to embrace digital platforms, seeding a global eCommerce boom.

In turn, consumers in India and China, two of the largest eCommerce nations for volume and value of transactions, are happy to pay a premium on goods produced in the UK; indicating willingness to pay premiums of 11.8% and 8.8%, respectively.

This is a very encouraging sign for British businesses. Those vendors that are able to scale to capitalise on the UK’s global reputation, and match the demand for British-made goods with the ability to seamlessly ship across unfamiliar territories, will be well place to gain a foothold in new markets going forward.

Forging a new trade network

Nonetheless, there are barriers which must still be addressed. New free trade deals with Japan, New Zealand, and prospectively Australia, demonstrate Britain’s capacity to construct a global network of beneficial markets for its companies to access. However, such deals will take some time to come to fruition. Free trade agreements in many of the most lucrative markets are yet to be struck, and will be protracted by nature.

This, along with the speed at which the UK has vaccinated the majority of its population, leaves businesses in something of a limbo state. As many key trading partners remain under stringent social restrictions due to the pandemic, it is unlikely we will see a fully rejuvenated global marketplace for some time – almost certainly after the point at which the UK economy is ready to trade at mass.

The UK’s capacity to scale quickly to meet new opportunity markets is underpinned by a top-class logistics infrastructure. For instance, at One World Express we have recently partnered with Orange Connex to launch Ship2world, delivering a technology product that enables businesses to find the most efficient shipping strategies, select from hundreds of carriers, and optimise their routes across global markets.

British businesses are likely to require some patience before they can take fullest advantage. In the meantime, businesses should be encouraged to assess the possibility of adapting their product to suit both pandemic-inspired commerce trends, and the potential to access tremendously advantageous markets due to the innate reputational strength enjoyed by British firms. Equally, the government must look to prioritise securing as many free trade agreements as possible, as quickly as possible, to afford UK exporters the best available opportunities to access emerging and established markets without the barrier of customs duties.

In doing so, the UK is likely to find its long-term fortunes vastly improved over pre-pandemic levels. While there is still risk and uncertainty in the market owing to the pandemic, it is clear that businesses are turning from survival operations towards long-term planning. The global appeal of Brand UK has not been broken under the strain of the pandemic, and is certain to be critical in determining whether British businesses will falter or flourish once global markets are revitalised.