UK businesses claim retail ‘damaged by Brexit’

Brexit is having a ‘damaging impact’ on the retail sector, according to the views of 71 per cent of UK retailers, a new survey has revealed. 

Brexit is creating a great deal of uncertainty within the country and beyond. Retail operations platform, Brightpearl, set out to explore how retail decision-makers feel the country’s vote to leave the EU has impacted their sector in the weeks leading up to Britain’s big exit from Europe.

Researchers found that four-in-five retailers are concerned about the impact Brexit will have on business and almost half have seen a detrimental impact on their own sales since the process to leave the EU began.

Brightearl’s survey canvassed the opinions of more than 110 decision makers, at an executive level, at some of the UK’s biggest retailers. Staggeringly, 77 per cent stated their belief that it was wrong for Britain to leave the EU in hindsight and an overwhelming majority (73 per cent) would support another referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU.

“Retailers are extremely concerned about Brexit – but there’s much they can do to minimise its impact,” said Brightpearl’s CEO, Derek O’Carroll. “Retailers must be agile with the right technologies in place that support greater flexibility, such as the ability to enter new markets with minimal investment or to test new business models. Systems that provide real-time access to data are also key for live updates on business performance and customer insights – which can be used to make more informed decisions, which will ultimately help prepare and protect a business in the wake of Brexit.”

Brightpearl’s study also revealed a negative impact on consumer spending, with nearly three-quarters of respondents claiming that Brexit uncertainty means shoppers are spending less on the high street and online.

“Brexit is affecting consumer confidence in almost all sectors,” added Gareth Austin-Jones, Director, Cocorose London. “Another fundamental issue for us, and many retailers, is the increased cost of importing finished goods, parts or materials as a result of Brexit. It’s very concerning.”

As operational costs rise and consumer spending falls, Brightpearl’s O’Carroll said it is incredibly important for retailers to take costs out of their business as much as possible and keep hold of the customers they do have.

“If they haven’t already, retailers should be looking to technology investments to automate as many manual elements of their operations as possible – from order processing to fulfillment – as it will help to preserve profitability whilst also offering a much more seamless and speedy shopping experience for existing customers – which is likely to keep them coming back for the long haul.

“My advice – make sure your operations are slick and you are delighting your customers every time. That’s the most sustainable strategy for riding out Brexit-related uncertainty.”

The report results are from an electronic survey conducted in January-February 2019 by Brightpearl. The company canvassed the opinions of 112 UK retail decision makers at an executive level.