Jigsaw chief executive Peter Ruis has welcomed the change in rhetoric away from a hard Brexit, arguing that it would be “suicide for the economy”.
Ruis was speaking to Drapers after the premium womenswear brand revealed resilient sales despite what he described as a “strange and difficult” end to the financial year, following the vote to leave the European Union.
Sales rose 8% to £94.7m for the year to 1 October 2016, and the business maintained its margins despite the instability of the market. “We managed to keep margin more or less flat, which was a miracle in terms of what was going on around us,” Ruis said.
However, he was optimistic that there may be brighter times ahead for retail, following the general election in June. “The rhetoric around hard Brexit, and the EU citizens that work in our businesses was going all the wrong way.
”Now we have a sense that retail will be listened to and people are aware that the context of a hard Brexit will be suicide for the economy. It feels like that debate is moving on and some of the hard Brexit rhetoric we were hearing is going away.”
Online sales rose 20% to £19m during the year. European sales more than quadrupled to £1.9m (from £445,000 in 2015), while sales across the rest of the world climbed by 88% to £3.4m.
While Jigsaw plans to debut in Italy in August with a concession in department store Coin, Ruis noted that uncertainty over the UK’s future relationship with the EU is having an impact.
“We’ve had to be a little bit more cautious with Europe. There are concerns about future red tape, tariffs and similar,” he explained. “But that isn’t to say there aren’t opportunities.”
He added: “It’s led us to really want to drive Australia, where we have the currency advantage and it’s a much more stable economy.”
Jigsaw incorporated its Australian franchise partner in January 2016, and has since seen sales grow by 231% year on year.