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Britain votes to leave the EU, a shock for retailers

Fashion retailers across the UK have expressed their shock and dismay at Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, with political uncertainty and a weakened pound primary concerns.

A total of 51.9% or 17.4 million people voted to leave the EU in yesterday’s historic referendum, while 48.1% voted to remain.

Overnight the pound dropped 11%, slumping to a three decade low of $1.32 against the dollar, the lowest level since 1985.

David Cameron says he plans to resign as Prime Minister by October to allow for “fresh leadership.”

Berwin & Berwin, managing director, Simon Berwin said: “What happened to the dollar overnight tells you what to expect for the fashion and clothing industry – we’re heading for inflation and political instability. This tells us sometimes people have to be careful what they wish for. This will take five years to sort out. It’s horrendous.”

Independent retail analyst Nick Bubb echoed this point. “It is an economic and political disaster for the country in general and London in particular, as reflected in the slump in sterling overnight, so it is unlikely to be good news for the fashion industry.”

Tim Little, designer and owner of footwear brand Grenson said: “Obviously the key point is that nobody knows what this will mean, except of course that we know it means uncertainty and that is bad for business. We just have to hope that the uncertainty is short term keep in mind that we are all global businesses now.”

Simon Carter, founder of the eponymous menswear brand said he was “ashamed to call himself British and unable to call myself European.”

Caroline Rush, chief executive of the British Fashion Council said on Twitter that she was “deeply saddened by this morning’s news.”

Charles Clinkard, owner of 33-store eponymous footwear chain, said: “I feel we will see a long period of uncertainty as frankly I don’t think anyone really knows what will happen now. One thing I can say is if the pound continues to weaken then retail prices will rise. The overall commercial and economic issues could be seismic.”

Shaun Wills, chief executive of Jacques Vert Group, said he is in shock: “From my perspective, our immediate concern is managing the currency risk; looking at both our sourcing and pricing for spring 17. I am still digesting the other implications!”

A poll carried out by the British Fashion Council last week suggested 90% of the 290 businesses polled favour staying in the EU, while at London Collections Men a number of top designers, including Christopher Raeburn and Patrick Grant, also expressed a desire for the UK to remain in the European Union.

Fashion bosses including Jacqueline Gold, chief executive of Ann Summers, chairman Brian McBride and designer Anya Hindmarch were among 1,300 business leaders to sign a letter earlier this week, urging people to vote remain ahead of the historic vote.

Readers' comments (9)

  • Remain lost the argument and are in a minority. They should get over themselves!

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  • Immediate pain for all those retailers expanding internationally. Costs just went up 10% overnight... as most of world trades on back of US dollar.

    SPositive is for tourism. Trying to think of others.

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  • I am ashamed to be British and even more ashamed to be English, but very proud that London voted in favour of remain. IMO the first comment shows the economic illiteracy and total disregard for our future trading position that underlines this tragic result. God help us.

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  • Anyone would think it was the end of the world! There will still be mutual co-opertaion between the UK and the EU, without being part of the archaic and undemocratic EU. There is no doom and no gloom only brighter days ahead.

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  • The sensible thing to do is wait and see before we all get excited.
    But the fact also remains that imported product will go up at least in the short term.

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  • and exported product?Grow up and get over it. If everyone spreads gloom we talk ourselves into having no confidence. At least this was democratic - unlike anything in the EU

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  • darren hoggett

    We at last have a chance to self govern as any other country should. The hysteria from some parts of the press and social media have been patronising to say the least. Nobody's vote was worth more or less and the country voted to leave which should be respected by all. The future is bright for those that want it to be and the clothing industry should be no different.

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  • Sterling is still very low which affects margins and prices for all of us and and the FTSE 250 is trading over 1000 points down affecting personal pension pots and companies values. I don't see any brightness here yet.

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  • Onwards and upwards!

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