Nearly two-thirds of small and medium enterprise importers in Britain have been forced to raise prices to compensate for the weaker pound, according to a report.

Some 61% of importers have raised prices over the past 12 months, with prices being increased by an average of 9%, the study by American Express and East & Partners revealed.

A third of importers said they planned price increases over the next 12 months.

However, exporters benefited as a result of the weakness in the sterling since last summer's Brexit vote, with nine out of 10 saying they had increased their margins over the past year at an average growth rate of 13%.

Some 95% of those already exporting said they are planning to increase exports even further in the coming year.

A weak pound makes British goods cheaper in overseas markets while making goods imported from other countries more expensive.

Rising import prices are one of the main factors behind the UK inflation rate sitting above the Bank of England's 2% target.

American Express said the current foreign exchange climate presented domestic British businesses with the perfect opportunity to begin exporting their products overseas.

"Exchange rates have a huge impact on UK SMEs with an international footprint, and on their ability to maintain their place in the local and global economies," said Jose Carvalho, senior vice president of global commercial payments Europe at American Express.

"Those already involved in exporting are seeing the business benefit, and whilst others currently focused on domestic activity might be daunted by the idea of exporting there are plenty of resources out there for ambitious businesses."

While exporters were buoyed by the weaker pound, more than a quarter of businesses said the volatility in the currency posed a threat to their future.

Others cited cashflow challenges from trading internationally as a major concern, with 26% saying they cannot predict what they will earn from a 30-day invoice.