Brexit is not going away quickly and there is much uncertainty – this is having an impact on how businesses are spending and preparing for the end of 2019 as well as the start of 2020.

31st October is (currently) set as the date to leave the EU – for retail businesses this truly has the potential to be catastrophic as it falls in the run up to what should be a busy season. Larger companies will have placed stock orders ahead and some are stockpiling because we are so uncertain about the issues which we will face – several high-profile businesses are freeing up warehouse space in order to ensure that they can maintain supply beyond ‘Halloween’.


“British universities have begun stockpiling supplies including toilet roll and food amid fears that the UK will leave the EU without a deal as 10% believe that the supply chain will be disrupted.”

The Independent


Small retailers do not always have the luxury of cash, storage and manpower to try to cope in the same way as the larger chains.

I recently was asked to explain why it was so bad, so this is how I did it:

1 – Through June – October you (a retailer) decide what you will be selling, stocking and promoting through the Christmas period.

2 – Delivery of these goods typically happens in October and November when you have made space for them OR you are able to pay for them

3 – Sales of these goods are expected through November and December with the hope that you have judged it right/forecasted well so that you are not trying to clear your premium space at cost or a loss. You may also rely on sales into Europe (taking advantage of exchange rates) to help fund your business growth.

If you add into the mix of this that there may be problems with the supply chain due to Brexit both inbound (Goods arriving from the EU or further afield) or outbound, trying to get goods into mainland Europe or beyond then it is likely that you will be more cautious about your procurement. In addition to this you may not know the set of charges which you will need to pay to export OR you feel obliged to take (expensive) warehouse space within the EU so that you can fulfil potential orders in Europe.

NB – An interesting conversation with a client surfaced the following “It is cheaper, by £6, to send our product to the Highlands of Scotland from Germany than it is from our UK operation.” This is true today but is still part of the great unknown post 31st October.

So, what is the impact? Retailers are being cautious and not spending as freely as they would otherwise – this itself could cause supply issues which may hark back to the recent years of ‘Wowee Fingerling’ shortages or similar. LEGO (a brand which I am a huge fan of) are actively working with retailers in case of a ‘No deal’ to ensure that their prized products will be available.

And of course, these smaller retailers may also not be getting the upsell (where the best margin is typically made) which goes with the hero products and so are losing twice. Retail is changing rapidly in this country and you only need to walk down the high street to see the effects it has but the pressures which small businesses are under coupled with uncertainty means that it may not be a merry Christmas for all.

Of course, this is the ‘Doomsday scenario’ and if Brexit is handled smoothly then we are still expecting a modest/flat 1.5% increase YoY (from PWC) which indicates a growing economy and stable basis for 2020. The advice to retailers remains ‘Invest in technology’ and ‘invest in your customers’ in order to maximise sales and customer retention. Interact with your customer across as many channels as you can whilst offering a simple but effective method of purchase.

Is it too late to get a new website for the holiday period? If you are looking for a fully functioning and integrated site, then the answer is yes – but that is not the only option available to you. Work with your ecommerce provider to provide features which can be added to your site with less effort than a rebuild, look at implementing an optimisation platform, Integrate chat (using AI?) and most of all review the customer journey with a mindset of abandonment so that you are armed to prevent it.

I do hope that Christmas isn’t blighted and promise everyone that I won’t be putting any decorations up for a few more months.

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