Report finds Brexit a Genuine Concern for Most Fashion Retailers and Brands

The world stood in disbelief as Brexit was passed in 2016 and since then many questions remain about the impact it will have on global relations. With the deadline for Brexit to take effect lingering near, the fashion industry continues to feel left in the dark about just how disruptive it will be to businesses.

The UK imports almost 10 billion Euros of clothes and shoes from Europe each year, and London has been considered a long-time contender as a global fashion leader. Experts predict that Brexit will cost the fashion industry nearly 1 billion with smaller brands and retailers feeling the most impact.

For an industry that is known to be forward-thinking, many leaders are feeling the weight of not knowing exactly how to navigate the major changes ahead. A new study from finance solutions provider Duologi, they spoke to 500 SMEs and found 18% citing Brexit as their biggest challenge with 45% saying they’re unprepared for it.

What we know

The UK will be left to operate under the World Trade Organization rules for imports and exports with very little time to transition. Currently, a free-trade deal has yet to be met, which means there is a possibility that UK businesses can expect to pay 11% in tariffs similar to that of the US and Japan. These changes can be damaging to smaller brands and retailers who will not be able to meet the fluctuation in currency prices to operate in a post-Brexit world. 

For larger fashion conglomerates, having to navigate more red tape, means adjusting their supply chain and perhaps relying on outside factories to reach fulfillment. And with so much uncertainty, there is a chance that the delivery cycle will be disrupted, as well. 

Brexit will inevitably slow the growth of new London-born brands and retailers. And, perhaps the most detrimental changes will be in gaining and attracting talent. The UK depends on international talent–according to McKinsey’s latest State of Fashion Report, they found that 10,000 EU citizens are employed in the UK fashion industry–and one of the most salient changes Brexit will bring to UK citizens is stricter border control and immigration policies. 

This means that the UK might have to make do with a smaller pool of workers and make arrangements for work visas–all while new immigration laws are still being ambiguously set. 

Not all bad news

While most brands are trying to contend with the negative impacts that Brexit will have on their business operations, there is some light at the end of the tunnel. For some time now, the fashion industry has had to deal with pressures to change business practices that bring visible negative effects on the environment. 

The business of fashion has operated under the same rules over the past 100 years and Brexit brings an opportunity for UK-based fashion brands to make some much-needed changes to manufacturing and operation practices. 

The UK might have to become more reliant on home-grown textiles and internal resources, which could push for more transparency and sustainable methods of conducting business. These are all changes that most global brands could stand to make. 

Many longstanding fashion houses have been abrasive to change, but with the industry moving quickly in so many directions this could be an opportunity to take a step back and recalibrate a new–more optimal way–of doing global business.