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Industry despair at Brexit 'mess'

The retail industry has called for certainty after prime minister Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal was overwhelmingly rejected by parliament last night.

The deal was rejected by 230 votes: the largest defeat in history for a sitting government.

The fashion sector, which relies heavily on imported materials and international talent, is particularly vulnerable to Brexit-related headwinds.

Businesses, retailers and suppliers have been quick to voice their frustration with the ongoing Brexit uncertainty resulting from the vote, claiming it has left them “stuck in no-man’s land”. 

The chief executive of one womenswear multiple told Drapers: ”I don’t know what to make of it. It is a level of uncertainty we just don’t need, and there’s no planning you can do, no guidance or help or any sense that there is a better roadmap either politically or for the country.

“People are very uncertain and this means lack of confidence, it leads to a sense of frustration. For shoppers, uncertainty is always unhelpful. People think, ‘Do I need it?’ when shopping. It interrupts the flow of people feeling in the mood and optimistic about themselves.”

 There is now zero consumer confidence and zero opportunity

Jason Gerrard, chief executive of menswear supplier Threadology

One department store source said: “It’s ridiculous. The problem is we do not have the resource to look at every single option that could happen. If businesses at this stage started putting in contingency plans for every possibility, there would be no one to actually run the business. The concern is that we cannot possibly plan ahead.

“[The government] should delay it so they have time to make proper decisions. I would quite like it to come back for another vote but at the very least give themselves time to work out the mess they are in.”

In the event of no deal, the UK would immediately leave the single market and customs union, and revert to the World Trade Organization rules, under which tariffs would be levied on goods imported from the European Union.

Jason Gerrard, chief executive of menswear supplier Threadology, said no deal would hamper business further: “For us [losing the vote] is definitely not a good thing because it will make importing goods much more complicated. This has provided no opportunities for us from a business perspective. There is now zero consumer confidence and zero opportunity.”

A womenswear supplier echoed these concerns: ”The result was expected. I don’t think it hinders or helps us because there is still no clarity and we’re stuck in a no-win situation. The biggest issue is that we’re stuck in no-man’s land and we are no more certain than before. There is still uncertainty on currency and for us there are still concerns about border controls. We simply cannot plan for all of the different outcomes.”

In the aftermath of the stinging defeat Made in Britain supplier, Jenny Holloway, described Brexit as a “mess”: ”For us it’s the lack of certainty because we can’t make plans in investment and recruitment, and it just feels as though we’re treading water. Business can’t stop, so we just have to carry on and be aggressive.”

Andrew Pace, director of Tyne and Wear-based supplier Panda Sourcing, told Drapers: “For me the damage was done when we voted out. The pound dived and hasn’t recovered, imported goods are more expensive and most buyers don’t want to pay any more, so the poor guy in the middle gets squeezed again. I didn’t agree with it, but once they voted on it they could have sorted it months ago.”

He added: ”There are no opportunities. The challenges are the same as the last two years. Import is a hard slog and won’t improve at all in the short term.”

  • Is your business affected? What measures are you taking and what do you think the government should do now? Email us




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