A year ago voters decided, 52% to 48%, that the UK should leave the EU. We catch up with those in the industry who we spoke to after the EU referendum for an update on their current opinions*
Managing director, Scotcrest, North Lanarkshire and central Scotland
I voted for Brexit. Obviously it’s difficult without knowing the full deal, but I don’t think the prophets of doom have been proven right. It’s maybe still a bit early; personally, I’m still waiting to see what the end result is going to be. So far, it’s been business as usual.
All suppliers have put their prices up, which is just down to the value of the pound. I think overall we were expecting that. I sent a letter out to all my schools, explaining that although the value of the pound dropped by 20%, the suppliers took a hit on it and then we took a hit on it, so they weren’t getting the full effect of it. We never had any kind of negative feedback from the schools – I think that’s because every time you open up a paper or look in the news, they’re expecting price rises. Everyone knows about the drop in value of the pound – holidays are more expensive, food’s more expensive – so they appreciate that we’re not going to be any different from anybody else.
I can’t say I’ve noticed sales dropping, but that could just be down to the fact that 80% of my sales will be in June, July and August.
The one thing I would say is that it has made me more conscious, whenever I’m doing deals, to be a bit more aggressive, try to get the best deals, and more companies are prepared to listen to you. I think where there’s a bit of uncertainty, nobody wants to lose business. When my gas and electricity prices came in I sat down and went through everything to try and get the best deals, and then I went on to the telephone and insurance companies. Most companies are absolutely fine about it. We’re probably the same – if a good order comes through you don’t want to lose it – you’re making sure you cut your cloth accordingly.
Managing director, Creative Apparel, Stockport
Nothing has changed yet. I still think, my main view, is that the whole of the EU is in a financial mess. That’s my main reason for getting out. They make mountains out of molehills. The whole thing’s a mess – it’s nothing to do with immigration. You need immigration.
The government has gone mad on exporting and I feel that’s the route to go. There’s a market there and the government are really helping to do it. Look at the Germans, they’re mad on exporting. They don’t care if it’s a hundred quid this month, next month it’ll be £500, then £5,000 and so on.
Do your duty and export. We have that British tag – the Made in the UK label is the fourth most respected in the world [according to a recent survey of 43,000 people across 53 countries by Statista]. I’m hoping we can be how we used to be, exporting throughout the world.
I think it’s going to be hell in the next couple of years, but at the end, we’ll come out stronger.
The population is in the hundreds of millions for the whole of Europe, but the population of China is something like 1.4 billion, America’s about 320 million… If 5% of them have money, that’s huge. I was speaking to Burberry the other day and their biggest export market is South America.
It’s a global world, we’ve got to be in this global world. Set your own brand up and export that, or whatever. All the other places want British products, everybody should be out there doing it.
Managing director, TOTShirts, London
Product that comes from Europe is costing us more money – certainly, we’re being charged more for garments, but we’ve managed to pass it on. All of our clients accept that they’re paying a bit more for garments because we are.
The initial impact of the exchange rate on garment prices, everybody’s got used to it. People haven’t started putting them down again if they’ve levelled out; everybody’s got used to that extra cost and is just getting on with their lives.
Supply and demand will overcome everything. If people want something, they’ll pay the extra for it. If they don’t want it then the demand goes down. Even when all this goes through, if someone wants to buy a BMW, they’ll buy a BMW. Whether we’re in that [EU] club or not is irrelevant. All the scaremongering beforehand, once it’s gone past that date, everybody just carries on as normal. You have to change a little bit, but you get on with life.
We’ve got plenty of eastern Europeans [staff] and they’re getting on with their jobs as normal. I don’t think anybody’s panicking, because when you’re working on the shop floor you don’t look too far into the future. You look forward to the next tea break or the next wage packet. When you talk about another two years before it affects them, they just go, ‘It’s two years away, we’re still entitled to get on and do what we do’. I’m sure over the next two years deals will be done so that there isn’t a problem. It would be ridiculous to say in two years’ time, ‘Oh all those that’ve been working here from the European community, you’ve got to go back.’ That’s not going to happen.
Brexit will make a difference to some people but they’ll just have to adjust their business models accordingly. If they do, and they do it successfully, they’ll continue onwards and upwards. If they don’t, they’ll end up in trouble. It’s the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest.
As I said last year, I don’t think being a member of a club affects the overall supply and demand model. When there’s something that goes wrong, another opportunity will come along and people will pick up on that. Just keep calm and carry on, as they say.
We’ve had more work in the first few months of this year than we’ve had historically, but then again that’s nothing to do with the economic climate, that’s the fact that a couple of our clients have big tours on at this time of the year. Someone big goes out and we get the work – we’re busy, irrespective of what’s going on. So, we’re buoyant, but it’s nothing to do with whether we are in or whether we are out, it’s just the nature of the current circumstances of the market.
Just keep going. As long as you’re agile, you’ll survive anyway. It’s not as pessimistic as people make out and you’ll find a way forward.
Founder and CEO, Mantis World, London
I’m not sure there’s much I can say about Brexit as there is so much uncertainty! None of us know what the deal will be as yet, so that makes it extremely hard for businesses to plan. We do know that there is change coming and successful businesses are the ones that will be flexible and adapt.
There have been significant price increases on blank garments due to the weak pound against the dollar, and on a macro level we are seeing inflation affect household spending and economic confidence. So, I would expect recessionary forces as the effects of Brexit are felt more keenly.
Both the UK and the EU are posturing, taking hardline positions as they begin negotiations. Unless compromise is reached in the coming two years, we may well end up with no deal, which would mean going back to World Trade Organisation rules. That would be disastrous for the UK – and would offset any short term gain in UK exports to the EU due to the weak pound.
Mantis World has always been an international, UK-based company. Half our sales are in the EU and a third of our team are EU nationals. So for us, Brexit does mean uncertainty, but we are planning for all eventualities so that whatever the deal we get, we will be prepared. In more real terms this has meant that investment plans in a new UK warehouse have been shelved until we know whether we get access to the single market. We are fully supportive of our EU colleagues in safeguarding their right to continue working here. In the future we may be able to get better access to new markets depending on what bilateral trade deals the UK can make, but that’s some time away and not as easy as trading with our neighbours in the EU.
Managing director, Result Clothing, Colchester
It is early days still. What everyone will have seen by now are the price increases due to the fall in the value in sterling – the main issue is the staying in the single market because that affects everyone in the country.
I think at Result we have had to increase our prices less than any other brand because we had a currency bet made in January 2016 for US$1.45 that we had forgotten about. That materialised on the night of the referendum when sterling hit US$1.45 at midnight and dropped down next morning when the news of Brexit was clear. This windfall helped Result hold prices.
* These interviews were carried out before the UK’s 2017 general election