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'Now retail will be listened to over Brexit,' says Jigsaw CEO

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.

Readers' comments (4)

  • There's no soft brexit. Which bit of the result does he not understand?

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  • There remains very little of substance in the prevailing political rhetoric to suggest that the UK might remain in the customs union, and even less to suggest the UK might remain in the single market. The effusive hard Brexit rhetoric has less airspace in the wake of the mixed general election result, but no major party has an audible policy of remaining in the single market. I'd like to share Ruis's optimism for a soft Brexit, but I believe it's unfounded. More likely, the previous commenter's archetypal Brexiteer swagger is closer to the mark.

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  • Leon Bailey Green

    If anything the general election cements the UK leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union, as well as the European Union itself.

    The majority of voters chose the Conservatives and Labour, both of which supported Britain fully leaving the European institutions.

    Other than wishful thinking by media commentators there is no sign of this 'softer Brexit' where we will stay part of the EU. It wasn't on the cards before and it isn't now.

    We are leaving the EU and we will be a better country for it.

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  • darren hoggett

    Agree with the previous poster. The majority who voted in the referendum voted to leave the EU. Leave. Either you are in, or you are out. All this 'Hard' and 'Soft' is meaningless.

    The post vote hysteria from some in the trade has been totally unnecessary and BREXIT being used as the perennial excuse regarding anything related to the trade.

    This isn't the Hokey Cokey. We are leaving the EU and will be all the better for it.

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