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Retailers back 'in' campaign for Europe

Brexit 2016

Fashion multiples, independents and suppliers have expressed mixed views over the impending referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union, but most agree it would be better to stay in.

Prime minister David Cameron announced this week that the referendum will take place on June 23.

Following the announcement, the bosses of 36 FTSE 100 companies signed a letter in support of Cameron’s position to stay in Europe. They included Asda chief executive Andy Clarke, Ann Summers chief executive Jacqueline Gold, Burberry chief executive Christopher Bailey, Kurt Geiger chief executive Neil Cli­fford, Marks & Spencer outgoing chief executive Marc Bolland and Mothercare chairman Alan Parker.

Nitin Passi, chief executive of womenswear etailer Missguided, agreed that staying in Europe was best for business: “I strongly think the UK should remain part of the EU, as it could have a detrimental e­ffect on retailers if we exit.

“A change in policy on the duties and taxes we benefit from could hit hard on retailers’ bottom line, and, as the recent movement in the pound [falling to a seven-year low against the dollar on Monday] has illustrated, it could lead to a lot of uncertainty and instability in the future.”

Fergus Patterson, managing director of Gant UK and Ireland, said: “Europe is better together than separate. The EU needs some reform but we’re better doing that from within.

The uncertainty has already had a knock-on effect on the economy and consumers can become nervous, which makes it difficult for retailers.”

Nish Kukadia, co-founder and chief executive of flash Sales site Secret-Sales, said: “As a fast-growth etailer, we appreciate being able to secure top technology talent from all over Europe. We also work with a number of premium and luxury European brands, so the current position works well for us.

“That said, we’re building a UK-focused business, so I doubt the consumer side of our operation would be much a­ffected by a possible Brexit.”

Hilary Cookson, owner of womenswear independent Maureen Cookson in Whalley, Lancashire, said she will vote to leave Europe but added that agreements over trade will be essential to both sides of the campaign: “We are a key trading nation and that should not change should we leave. The difficulty may be in securing bilateral agreements with our European counterparts. But with the current levels of imports and exports into Europe, I do not think they can a­fford to leave us out in the cold.”

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