Data Insight: External sales behaviour of Northern Ireland businesses: A focus on 10X sectors

This Data Insight explores the external sales behaviour of Northern Ireland businesses over the period 2014–2020. The focus is on 10X classified businesses and the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU).

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What we found

Our results are based on the returns of about 5,000 Northern Irish businesses each year. The sample is skewed towards larger businesses, as reflected in the high overall average employment figure of 60.49 individuals per business. The general trend observed is that the percentage of total sales to these export markets increased steadily over the period. As expected, sales to these external markets declined in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sectoral differences are evident in the percentage of sales to the four markets. Generally, it seems non-10X businesses are less engaged with external markets relative to 10X businesses. 

Next the sectoral data is analysed over the period 2014 to 2020 for each external market. Overall, the largest external market is Great Britain (GB), followed by the Republic of Ireland (ROI). Differences in the relative importance of markets are observed across the sectors. For example, the ROI market is most important to the agri-tech sector, and the rest of the world (ROW) market is most important to the health and life sciences sector which is probably driven by the USA . This sector is also very active in markets in the rest of the European Union (REU). In general, the 10X sectors have the strongest exporting behaviour and their sales to GB have also been steadily increasing over the period.

Why it matters

Our findings suggest that a targeted approach focusing on 10X sectors could benefit the Northern Ireland economy as these sectors are most active in external markets. External sales (including exports) are recognised as important to developing the small regional Northern Ireland economy, and the recent growth trajectory of 10X sectors may point to a resilience and diversification benefit which results from greater emphasis on external sales.

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