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When George Osborne presented the challenge to UK businesses to avoid ‘economic irrelevance’ and double the country’s exports by 2020, his words seemed buoyed by hopefulness rather than justifiable optimism. Osborne explained that UK exported greater value to Ireland than the significant growing markets of Brazil, Russia, India and China combined over the last decade, demonstrating the mire of UK exporters. 

One surprising industry to provide hope for UK exporters however is the pound line and discount stockists industry; having seen their wares leap in popularity as their ventures move online.

Fayzul Wadiwala, Director of Pound Wholesale, believes he has a reason as to why overseas discount stores are seeking UK-based stockists.

"We hadn’t foreseen the potential of overseas customers when we took the business online, our website was designed to be a portal for domestic customers. However, the exports have naturally taken off and we believe the UK packaging is a big reason. Packaging written in English gives the product a sense of authority and our customers believe that their customers will trust in the quality provided."

With over 15 years’ experience in pound shop retail to draw upon, Mr Wadiwala was still taken aback by the increase in export demand. Two years ago, exports accounted for less than 1% of all transactions, whereas now they account for roughly a third.

Spotting greater potential, Mr Wadiwala has taken on the services of Peter Collins of Fast Forward Thinking – a group associated with the Manchester Metropolitan University that helps companies grow into new markets. Mr Wadiwala is keen to capitalise on this blossoming market.

Bekir Pasaoglu is the director of Stormax, a home and furnishing outlet based in the north of Cyprus, and imports much of his stock from UK pound line and discount stockists.

"The British products always seem to be better made than the mass-produced stock that is available from places like China. Plus my customers don’t want to see Chinese writing that they can’t understand on the products that they buy. I am now inclined to take advantage of the competitive British market."

There are signs of a slow but steady growth in UK exports across the board after a decade in the doldrums. The second quarter of 2013 registered the highest level of overseas sales since records began in 1998 with total sales of £78.4bn.

Simon Wells and John Zhu, economists at HSBC Holdings Plc, enthused: "higher exports would support the theory that there is demand for what the UK produces, and that it is not just an inventory build-up."

Coinciding with George Osborne’s speech, the Government have made significant steps to encourage businesses to import from the UK. Guarantees are being made to banks for loans used to purchase UK exports and insurance against non-payment. UK Trade & Investment are providing similar incentives with the sole purpose of increasing exports from the UK.

Katja Hall from CBI, the UK’s premier business lobbying organisation, has also targeted an increase in UK exports: "the UK needs to renew its role as a trading nation. This means boosting exports across the board and ensuring that British access to the biggest market in the world, the European Union’s Single Market, is protected."
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