UK brands have called for clarity around Brexit as continuing uncertainty leaves international buyers cautious at autumn 19 trade shows.
While UK buyers seemed unfazed by Brexit uncertainty at London trade shows Pure and Scoop, which both ran on 10-12 February, international buyers are concerned about possible changes to pricing, and British brands are preparing their production and logistics supply chains for a no-deal Brexit.
“There is definitely some concern from international buyers about the uncertainty around tariffs and whether Brexit will make things more expensive,” said Matthew Nugent, brand manager at TCA Showroom.
“They have an expectation that we will have more answers but unfortunately we don’t know any more than they do. It is definitely affecting orders and I know fewer of our Irish buyers are coming [to UK trade shows] this season because of the uncertainty.”
Graham Anderson, sales director at footwear distributor Skape, which represents Irregular Choice, said: “It’s tough out there. People are ordering, but without knowing for certain what pricing will be like for the new season. No one knows what is coming because of Brexit. If the prime minister doesn’t know, how can we know? People are long past caring about the result now. We just want clarity.”
No one knows what is coming because of Brexit. If the prime minister doesn’t know, how can we know?
Graham Anderson, sales director at footwear distributor Skape, which represents Irregular Choice
Irena Gordon, marketing manager at womenswear brand Sahara, said Brexit is causing uncertainty around the brand’s production processes, in addition to concerns about pricing and tariffs.
“We source all of our linen from Lithuania. We are having lots of discussions around [Brexit] but cannot put any plans in place until we know what is happening. We are trying to get our buy in earlier with certain factories and, when we exhibit at trade shows in Dusseldorf, we will not be shouting as much about our made-in-Britain collection as we have previously because of the Brexit uncertainty.”
Other brands agreed that they were reassessing their supply chains in preparation for a no-deal Brexit.
“We produce in the Far East and, if there’s a no deal, we have a warehouse ready to go in Benelux,” said Dylan Chadha, wholesale manager at Louche.
“Generally, we haven’t had a big problem yet from our European stockists. They just want to know what our plan is if there’s a no deal. If we get a deal with the customs union, there will be no change to what we’re doing now. The worst thing is not knowing yet. If they had announced a no deal six months ago, we would have had more time to prepare.”
Kat Maconie, founder of the eponymous footwear brand, is also putting contingency plans in place: “No one knows what to expect with Brexit. We are looking at moving our warehouse to Belgium. We’re hoping that when Brexit happens, it may open up trade deals with other nations, but we just don’t know yet.”
Claire Wandsworth, wholesale manager at Wyse London, said the cashmere brand would also consider opening an office in Europe in the event of no deal: “If there are duties we’d end up setting up an office in Europe, and delivering to the mainland first, and from there finding a way to get into the UK.”
However, one brand source said Brexit alone was not to blame for the cautious market sentiment: “Retailers are nervous when buying for the first time, and they are tightening up because of the overall retail sector’s health, rather than just Brexit. Retailers are more concerned about their own welfare than about Brexit – with the rumours around Debenhams’ [possible CVA] and the situation at House of Fraser adding to the uncertainty.”