Two thirds (64 per cent) of small and medium-sized enterprises based in the UK don't trade abroad, and three quarters of them have no plans to do so.
Research from software vendor Sage, which surveyed 500 businesses, shows that just six per cent cite overseas trading as a big goal next year, with one in five (17 per cent) of SMEs considering exporting at some point in the future.
Stats from UKTI also reveal that companies which export see a 34 per cent increase in productivity within their first year of exporting, but five per cent of SMEs say they don't know where to start.
The news comes as Boris Johnson launches a campaign to encourage British businesses to take their first steps in trading overseas.
Sage has also launched Sage One Accounts Extraaccounting and payroll software. It includes enhanced forecasting tools, automated bank reconciliation, multi-currency and cash flow management and more.
“Small businesses need help exporting to get that foothold in overseas markets,” said Simon Hodgkins, Head of Sage One UK and Ireland.
“Our research shows that there is very little understanding of how to go about making the first step in international trading - small businesses need to have the right support and guidance as navigating the different regulations and approaches to business can be daunting.
“One of the reasons we created Sage One Accounts Extra was specifically to support small businesses when making those first steps to trade outside the UK."
The main barriers to start or increase trading abroad according to UK decision makers were understanding international trading regulations (15 per cent), access to the right guidance and support (12 per cent), and access to finance (10 per cent) – in addition to simply not knowing where to start (10 per cent).
For a quarter (23 per cent) of decision makers who have existing export contracts, they suggest currency complexities, overseas government interference, red tape logistics and language barriers mean there are few opportunities for expansion.