5 step plan to super-charge tradeshow access in post-pandemic world

Press Releases 6 Aug 2021

FSB argues for the Department for International Trade to make the UK’s export support “truly world class in a tough international race”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has today called for the UK to seize upon a major opportunity to increase trade show access. It comes amid the recent closure of the Government’s Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) which FSB said "was not as good, or as good value, as it could have been."

FSB argues for the Department for International Trade to make the UK’s export support “truly world class in a tough international race” and put forward a five-point plan to focus any future arrangements on the regions and businesses where support is most likely to create first-time exporters or help existing exports into new markets.   

  1. Help trade-show access across the UK, particularly in areas such as the North East and North West of England, and the West Midlands, which have the largest proportion of small firms considering exporting for the first time compared to those who already do.   
  2. Expand support to include attendance costs such as conference fees, in addition to supporting firms with the cost of exhibits, given attendance is a frequent route to new markets for the smallest firms 
  3. Increase the proportion of costs covered by individual grants, to ensure best value for money by increasing the additionality of the scheme. 
  4. Streamline the administration of support, so that small firms of every type find it easier to access and reducing the risk that only the largest of SMEs have the resources to access trade programmes. 
  5. Look beyond trade shows to make UK export support competitive with the best international examples, such as the Canadian CanExport SMEs programme, which supports firms not only with tradeshow access, but the translation, market intelligence and certification costs which provide so much of the friction preventing new international trade.

The Government has recently closed its Tradeshow Access Programme (TAP) which provided support of £500 - £2,500 towards direct exhibiting costs, conference fees or creating promotional material.

These shows in some markets enable small businesses to build partnerships and connect with potential new customers, but the high costs of attendance, including conference fees, developing promotional material, stand costs, transport, and staff costs, are often a barrier that puts off small firms, especially in new markets.

FSB urges Government to replace TAP with a better scheme, building on international examples of best practice, such as the Canadian CanExport SMEs programme, which provides up to $75,000 to SMEs, covering up to 75 per cent of costs for export marketing in new markets. The funding provided can be used for a broad range of services including gathering market intelligence, seeking expert advice, translation costs, attending trade shows virtually or in person, and applying for certification in overseas markets.

FSB National Chair Mike Cherry said: “While some businesses did make use of the Tradeshow Access Programme, the scheme was not as good, or as good value, as it could have been.

“If our international competitors have better schemes than us, it is only right to look afresh at what more can be done to put ‘Made in the UK’ on other nation’s shelves.

“Our five-point plan sets out how future arrangements could be better – including targeted regional support, focusing efforts on new markets and first time exporters as well as streamlining the administration involved to make it easier for smaller firms to access these tradeshows.

“Ministers now have a chance to make the UK’s export support truly world class in a tough global race – we encourage them to take it.”

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About FSB

As the UK’s largest business support group, FSB is the voice of the UK’s small businesses and the self-employed. Established over 40 years ago to help its members succeed in business, FSB is a non-profit making and non-party political organisation that’s led by its members, for its members. As the UK’s leading business campaigner, FSB is focused on delivering change which supports smaller businesses to grow and succeed.

FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including access to finance, business banking, legal advice and support along with a powerful voice in Government. Each year FSB also runs the UK’s Celebrating Small Business Awards. More information is available at www.fsb.org.uk. You can follow us on twitter @fsb_policy and on Instagram @fsb_uk.