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EDITORIAL What is the plan for after Brexit?

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Retailers will have to think global to battle on post-Brexit
Retailers will have to think global to battle on post-Brexit

It’s hurricane season and Hurricane Brexit continues to whirl around the UK creating uncertainty and confusion – not just in the UK, but around the world.

 

In fact, research by Pure 360 shows that it isn’t just hitting UK retailers, it could potentially be a disaster from those outside the UK, with many consumers saying that they are less likely to buy things online from abroad as they are unsure as to what the tax and duty implications are.

 

Vendors are also worrying about the impact Brexit will have on lead times, manufacturing, exports and, with Sterling rising and falling like the waves of a storm lashed sea, the actual value they may (or may not) get from selling anything made in the EU.

 

And it is a shame. Europe is opening up to be the most vibrant m-commerce market in the world, with 63% of shoppers in France, Germany and the UK now reaching for their phones when they want to buy. That compares with 58% in the US, which once led the world.

 

Obviously, this has an impact on UK retailers looking to expand beyond the UK and who have seen e and m-commerce as their key tool in expanding their international presence. Now they will be faced with trying to tap into non-EU markets that are perhaps less advanced that what they are used to.

 

With the world of retail constantly evolving around technology, it is a shame that there are such strong, unprecedented political headwinds holding things back. The UK domestic retail market has ‘flatlined’, retailers need to look overseas for growth, but the nearest, biggest and easiest market to access – the EU – is being chocked off.

 

If a no-deal Brexit takes place then there will be, literally, years of negotiations – probably of under the cloud of ill feeling – to try and find a workable UK-EU trade deal. Even if we leave with a deal, there are likely to be delays in getting it sorted.

 

What then can we do? With HMRC making money available to help with Brexit preparations and lengthy advice on the government’s own website, this only helps fight the fire of Brexit. The real problem is that there is little or no strategic thinking, planning or ideas around what to do next… where do we go?

 

The whole cuffuffle kicked off under the (probably spurious) banner of taking back control, but from where I am sitting the UK economy, government and many of the people are running distinctly out of control. There is no plan for either deal or no deal Brexit – there is nothing tangible that any business let alone retailers can turn to that offers any idea of where we go next.

 

And that is the real tragedy of Brexit: it is an ideological exercise and, like communism, unworkable in practice. Time to look for the strategy that is going to lead us out of the devastation that is about to be wrought on us. The only saving grace is that retailers will continue to want to retail and shoppers will still want to shop: hopefully that will see the creation of practical ways around the mess of Brexit and its fall-out. After all government has failed us, we need to take matters into our own hands.

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