Friday, February 22, 2019

What they said – Retail leaders respond to the Brexit vote


The retail industry has been left reeling after waking up to the news this morning of the UK voting to leave the EU.

Earlier this week, company directors in retail joined over 1200 other business leaders – including some FTSE 100 chief executives – from across UK’s business and finance spectrum to sign an open letter that backed the UK remaining as a member of the EU.

However, with yesterday’s EU referendum meaning a Brexit is well and truly going to happen, along with the stock market crash and plunging value of the pound it provoked, several leaders of the retail sector have come forward with varied responses and a call for calm.

The Retail Gazette has compiled some of them here:

Helen Dickinson, CEO of British Retail Consortium:

“Now that a decision has been made to leave, it is important the Government moves quickly to explain the process of disengagement from the EU. Without clarity, retailers, other businesses and hence the economy will suffer from a prolonged period of uncertainty.

We are already seeing the commencement of a period of considerable volatility as financial markets react to any emerging information that might indicate how the new relationship to the EU might be shaped. Retailers should be prepared for the possibility of significant swings, particularly in the exchange rate and consumer confidence.

In order to keep prices down and to deliver the best possible choice for consumers, retailers’ top priority in the short term will be to ensure the continued ease and minimum additional costs of importing EU goods into the UK for sale to customers. A prolonged fall in the value of the pound will impact import costs and ultimately consumer prices, but this will take time to feed through. In its exit negotiations the Government should aim to ensure that the trade benefits of the Single Market (i.e. the absence of customs duties) are replicated in the UK’s new relationship with the EU.

However, it is important for us all to remember that, even if the government serves notice to leave the EU tomorrow, the process of leaving the EU will take a couple of years, during which time the UK remains a member and EU rules over free movement will continue to apply. Retailers will continue to focus on serving and delivering for their customers day in, day out in a highly competitive market as they do today.

In addition to goods traded with the EU, the Government will need to define the rules that will apply to goods traded with other countries. The BRC stands ready to advise them on this. In the slightly longer term, its important for the Government to explain how it will handle legislation that was previously the responsibility of the EU. This is likely to be a time-consuming and resource intensive process affecting a wide range of stakeholders. We are sure the Government will put in place a clear and effective process for consulting interested parties as it reviews these regulations. The British public has opted to leave the EU and it is now up to the Government in conjunction with our EU neighbours to make the most of that decision.”

British Council of Shopping Centres statement:

“The outcome of the EU referendum is already having a significant impact on the retail and retail property markets. But as the Prime Minister stated earlier today we must remember the fundamentals of our economy are strong, and we must be careful not to talk down our sector, or over inflate the economic, social and political challenges ahead, however real they are.

The impact of today’s EU referendum result for our economy, local communities and our political system will become clearer as the days and months go on, but it is likely that constitutional affairs will domi