How Brexit Might Affect Your Career in Fashion


How Brexit Might Affect Your Career in Fashion

brexit fashion industry


Like many industries, the British fashion industry has really benefited from Britain’s membership to the EU; in 2018, Britain exported over  £5 Billion worth of clothing and apparel to the EU, accounting for 15% of the total British Fashion industry. Britain may have secured many extensions on its withdrawal from the European Union, however, the January 31st withdrawal date is set in stone leaving us a matter of a few days to come to terms with our unclear future. Many businesses, including fashion brands, still face uncertainty about Britain’s future relationship with the EU. 

Although, we can’t be clear on how much Brexit will impact the fashion industry, here are a few ways Brexit might impact your role in the industry. 


Buying & Merchandising: Higher Cost Prices from Suppliers 

The European Union currently provides for the free trade of goods and services so brands are able to move goods from one member state to another without the need for much paperwork or to pay import taxes. However, Brexit means that Britain will no longer be seen as a member state and so Europe will trade with the UK as it does with any other non-EU country. That means product orders will be subject to import duties and added customs paperwork. If manufacturers choose to pass this cost onto brands, this will result in higher cost prices per order. 


How might this affect your role?

Although, it’s unlikely that you will have any real power in negotiating cost prices with suppliers, as an entry-level professional an increase in cost prices may still have an impact on your day-to-day role. Broadly, higher cost prices will mean lower profit margins per order for your department, which will make it harder for your department to meet profit targets. This may lead to having to amend or change existing orders between the brand and suppliers; for example, increasing selling prices or changing order quantities in order to help drive profit. It could also mean keeping tighter control on deliveries to ensure that orders aren’t going late and therefore eating into potential revenue. 


Marketing: Subtle “Remain” or “Leave” Messaging 

Aside from the cost implications of simply doing business, Brexit and the other issues it has raised also has an emotional impact. Whilst some may consider Brexit a great symbol of national pride, others might view the move as a snub on multiculturalism. Brands have certainly noticed the polarising effect and some, like Jigsaw, have already capitalised on this in their marketing.  


How might this affect your role?

As we navigate the challenges of Brexit, brands with strong British heritage or a substantially British customer base may play up “Britishness” whilst other brands may choose to feed into the idea of openness and diversity to appeal to overseas customers. 


brexit fashion industry


E-Commerce: Import duties and International Deliveries

Thanks to the internet, retailers are able to expand their customer base internationally without the need to be physically present within a market. In particular, the free trade agreement between European Union member states has allowed British brands to freely ship customer orders from UK warehouses to mainland Europe without the need for excessive documentation or customs duties. However, following Brexit, British brands will no longer be a party to the free trade agreement. Sending a customer order to Paris from the UK may attract the same volume of paperwork and taxation as sending an order to China. 


How might this affect your role?

Increased paperwork and taxation means higher costs of doing business in Europe. In the current climate where even super-brands like ASOS are issuing profit warnings, higher costs aren’t an attractive prospect. Whilst you may not be making final calls on whether doing business in Europe is worthwhile, as a junior employee, you may be called upon to help with the admin and analytical research of the decision making process.


Regardless of your function within the fashion industry, Brexit is bound to impact your organisation. Withdrawing from the customs union will mean that the cost of doing business in Europe will go up, making the continent a less appealing market. As the final deal is, yet to be negotiated the true extent of a Brexit impact remains largely speculation. As they say, knowledge is power and preparation is vital; arming yourself with a basic understanding of the possible ramifications will be invaluable.


Here are some fantastic articles that will help you find out more about the possible impact of Brexit on your field: 


Words by Martha Ngatchu 


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