The impact of Brexit on the retail sector

Posted by Paul McCarthy on 21 July 2016

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Last month’s EU referendum result has left numerous UK business owners in a state of flux; it isn’t yet known exactly what terms will be negotiated a Britain prepares to leave the EU, nor how long the process will take.

The retail sector has not been immune from this uncertainty, and like the rest of the UK has been speculating as to what the decision to leave means for the future of their industry. The divisiveness of this vote has generated much debate and discussion across the sector, and here’s what some of the retail industry’s most renowned experts have to say about Brexit:

“I feel we will see a long period of uncertainty, as frankly I don’t think anyone really knows what will happen now. If the pound continues to weaken, retail prices will rise.” Charles Clinkard, owner of Charles Clinkard footwear chain.

“It is too early to say what the impact will be on our industry and the business. All we can do is open the stores and assess over the coming weeks the impact it will have.” Nigel Oddy, CEO at House of Fraser.

“The UK fashion industry will continue to grow and thrive as we are among the best in the world at what we do. The UK has and always will be a resilient nation, and should be able to negotiate trading agreements that ensure we can continue to prosper as an open trading economy with Europe and the rest of the world.” Fergus Patterson, MD for Gant UK and Ireland.

“We don’t believe Brexit will have a significant impact on the business, but we’re waiting to see what happens to pricing.” Tim Steiner, CEO at Ocado.

While the feeling across the sector is generally one of uncertainty, top retail bosses remain divided as to how they feel a departure from the EU will affect their businesses. There will certainly be a slump for retailers who rely upon foreign goods as currency volatility continues to affect imports, however a number of commentators have suggested that Brexit will provide ample opportunity for ‘Made in Britain’ produce to thrive. 

There is, however, one thing we are certain on, and that is the length of time we will see before any of the Leave campaign’s proposed reforms can come into effect. Until then, the general consensus across the retail sector is very much ‘business as usual’.

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