Enduring the Brexit Rollercoaster

Plant n Grow currently ships to Europe on both a business to business and business to consumer basis.

So, in the midst of the current uncertainty, it seems like a good time to talk about how best, as a small independent retail brand, we can prepare / navigate the chaos we are faced with, whilst staying focussed on opportunities that Brexit may present us with.

What can we change / influence about our business to better prepare us in the event of a no deal Brexit? Parliament may have voted against leaving the EU without a deal, but who knows what will happen?

I’m pretty sure we’re all now getting fed up with the endless coverage on Brexit, not that it’s not critically important, but if negotiations in our businesses were this protracted, I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have much business left to negotiate with.

Despite my own personal views as someone who voted to stay in Europe for many reasons both professional and personal, could Brexit offer our small businesses some real opportunity - as a glass half full, forever optimist, I’d like to think yes?

I’ve done what I can in terms of identifying commodity codes / cost of tariffs and any relevant legislation changes and had discussions with our supply chain. I’m particularly irritated about the free movement of people and feel that as businesses and a country, we will suffer as a result. At this point there’s not much more we can do (other than roll our eyes daily as the chaos continues).

I’ve chosen to focus on where we can effect change in the business rather than just sitting hoping for an outcome that is in our best interests as I think that ship sailed a while back.

As a small business, we’re used to adapting to change so Brexit isn’t any different. 2018 wasn’t exactly the best year for retailers as consumer confidence was probably at an all time low and there’s rarely anyone who I speak to who wasn’t affected by the retail down-turn.

I could worry about this and the impact on our European sales as we now have wholesalers in Holland and Germany. Instead, I think there is a real opportunity to focus on others area whilst trying to prepare as best we can with the knowledge we have.

For us, that’s non-EU Sales, which have become more achievable for us from a regulatory standpoint and a wider range of clients. In the last 12-18 months, we’ve found many large British companies are now actively seeking to partner / collaborate with small British independent brands for promotions / campaigns, shared values or innovative product ideas. Their customers are driving this - and this is definitely an area we will continue to focus on.

We have always tried to keep our supply chain as close to us as possible to support other British businesses. However, it’s not always possible to obtain everything in the UK, so we do import a couple of components from Europe and will continue to do if it makes sense financially. In the meantime, we’ve taken the opportunity to review our products / product development process to try and either source components closer to home, design out some if importing becomes too costly or look at manufacturing some of the components ourselves.

I really believe that now, more than ever, customers are looking to support local quality brands and businesses who live and breathe their values and are deeply connected to their story. This could be a fantastic opportunity for micro and small businesses to grow during uncertain times if they can connect with their customers. Consolidation and resilience are the two words I’ve heard both myself and others saying a lot over the last few months and think this will remain the key in these uncertain times even if it means shrinking back to grow stronger.

Like everyone else I’m patiently waiting for the final outcome (hopefully this side of Summer).......until then.

Mandy Bailey is the founder of Plant n Grow and a WES Ambassador

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