Cities Outlook 2017

Where do different cities export to, and how big is the market?

Our annual healthcheck of 63 UK cities this year focuses on exports. It asks where cities export to globally, what they sell, and how much.

Report published on 30 January 2017 by Centre for Cities


With the UK leaving the European Union, big decisions need to be taken around international trade relations. With that in mind, this year’s Cities Outlook explores how much the 62 biggest British cities export, which goods and services they specialise in, and where the exports go.

By setting out the size of their exports and their markets, Cities Outlook shows cities where their challenges and opportunities lie as the UK looks to increase exports in the years ahead. It reviews the extent to which cities depend on individual industries for their exports and what proposed trade deals are likely to mean for them.

For national government, it provides insights about the geographic impact of potential trade deals. It also considers the relationship between exports and productivity at the city level, and the implications this has for both the attempts by the Government to raise productivity, and for its place-based industrial strategy.

Key findings

  • Cities accounted for the bulk of British exports at 62% of total exports
  • There is a divide between services and goods exports -with many goods coming from the North, and services from the South
  • Some cities are reliant on a single industry for their exports like the car industry in Sunderland or oil and gas in Aberdeen, while some industries are concentrated in very specific places.
  • The EU is the largest export market for almost every city, 46% of all cities’ exports are sent there.
  • Some cities like Derby, Coventry and Hull have strong relationships with other foreign markets such as The USA and China.
  • High exports do not necessarily translate to high productivity, and the relationship between services and productivity is much stronger
  • There were only 12 out of 62 cities that demonstrated both high productivity and a high level of export
  • But there were 37 out of 62 cities that have both low productivity and low export bases  – a key challenge for industrial policy, and for improving global trade.

which foreign market is your city most reliant on?



Cities Outlook 2017 - Web PDF (3 MB)

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