Shock. It’s the predominant word that retailers are using to describe how they feel after the result of the referendum on membership of the European Union became known on Friday. Despite later polls showing a sway towards Brexit, many believed it would not become reality.
But – unfortunately, believe most people – it has. The biggest concern now is the uncertainty of what the future holds. Britain cannot be sure what Brexit will mean for business, for trading agreements and for consumer confidence. This sense of being in a state of limbo is likely to remain for some time now.
We are entering an inevitable period of chaos as the reality of Britain’s exclusion from Europe dawns and the immediate effects on currency become clear. There are so many unanswered questions: who will become prime minister? When will the UK actually leave the EU? What are the short-terms effects and how long are they likely to last? These are all questions for which Drapers will continue to seek answers over the coming months in the hope that some clarity will be found.
In the meantime, the industry must remain focused on what it does best. We must endeavour to maintain trade deals within and beyond Europe and excel in our creative excellence. British brands have a strong heritage and we are world famous for our fashion – this level of influence is not something we should forget in turbulent times.
Last week, I was privileged to listen to a presentation by the formidable Anna Wintour at Cannes Lions international festival of creativity. Introducing the American Vogue editor, Burberry chief Christopher Bailey described her as “a doer not a talker”, who is completely global in outlook, unintimidated and a relentless pursuer of the new.
As Wintour herself said: “Creativity means thinking about the lives of our audience and how we connect with them.”
These are qualities and ambitions that I have seen across the industry and it has never been so important for UK retailers to remind themselves of their strengths. It is also important for retail leaders to reassure their employees that it is a case of business as usual.
No one knows what the future may hold and I believe in the long term, the strength of Britain’s fashion retailers and brands will prevail through adversity. But for now, it is a case of “opening up shop” and making every endeavour to retain consumer confidence in our Great British businesses.