Brexit & Retail – Ready or Not – March 2017

This roundtable breakfast brought retail leaders together to discuss operational changes for post-Brexit trading.


According to a survey, conducted by Global-E, 68% of retailers have yet to start planning for Brexit despite 51% believing cross border retailing will become more complex following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

A renegotiation of our trading relationship with the EU means retailers need to begin planning for potential changes to processes should the UK be unable to secure unfettered access to the Single Market.

Here are just a few notes from the breakfast discussion:

  • Regardless of whether a UK-EU free trade deal comes to fruition, non-tariff barriers will still be an issue. Retail businesses will need to pay more attention to the inputting of item data, such as commodity codes, fibre composition and country of origin, as these will impact the movement of product across borders.
  • Professionals with in-depth knowledge of global supply chain and customs issues will be more in demand than ever, as retailers look to increase sales in markets beyond the EU.
  • Paid search professionals are currently in demand as retailers push for international sales with the value of the pound.
  • It was agreed that the past few years has seen retailers focus on the ‘front end’ offer, with social media and click and collect cited as examples of areas where businesses have raced to succeed. Brexit has caused many to pull back and instead focus on the ‘back end’/supply chain.
  • Anecdotal data suggests restrictions on migration, from the EU to the UK, is of little to no risk to professional e-commerce related roles, as UK talent in this area is seen as premium across Europe. The group recognised that there is a risk of losing staff at the fulfilment end of the chain, as many roles are filled by European nationals.
  • The majority of guests do not feel a trade deal between the UK and the EU will be complete within the two year timeframe.
  • An expert global trade negotiator, who joined the discussion, expects any comprehensive deal to take five to ten years, citing the ratification process, and likely ‘bit by bit’ approach to producing the deal.
  • It was said that the automotive industry in Germany is so powerful it will put pressure on its government to reach a free trade deal, and quickly.
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