Results are in – Brexit is still the biggest problem for retailers


The results of a recent survey we conducted may not shock anyone as we have seen new cycles dominated by the topic of Brexit for years now, focusing even more so on trade and commerce since the negative impacts became increasingly clear. Scurri conducted a nationwide representative B2B survey among 500 retailers across the UK. The study looked at what retailers found to be the main challenges of Brexit one year on, what they see as the biggest areas of concern at present and how they have recovered from supply chain issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The results are in… retailers are split between those fully recovered and those still suffering as a result of COVID-19’s impact

When retailers were asked if they believed they were still suffering from continued supply chain issues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, results were almost split evenly. 

54% of retailers feel that they are still suffering from the impact of coronavirus on the global and national supply chains, while 46% believe that they are no longer suffering. This result hopefully indicates the beginning of new hope for retailers and the return to normal pre-covid levels, however, there is still a long way to go due to alternative factors within the supply chain. 

Brexit concerns continue for businesses, having caused widespread damage to the supply chain since introduction

Logistics is centred around efficiencies and certainty of delivery. The implications of post-Brexit trade requirements are ensuring that vital trade distribution functionality is suffering and becoming less efficient and less cost effective, impacting retailers and, consequently, consumers alike. 

Since Brexit officially began implementation retailers have been subject to a variety of challenges as a result of the deals struck. When asked to give the three main challenges they had experienced due to Brexit, 41% of retailers in the UK stated that supply chain issues had been one of the largest challenges, 33% said staffing issues, 31% said import and export tariff concerns, 26% stated profits in the face of slumped sales and 18% said the decline in sales. Only 22% of respondents stated they had found no challenges due to Brexit. The wide variety of issues listed shows that COVID-19 was not the sole source of disruption in the last two years for retailers and consumers alike, and that issues may continue. Only in recent weeks the Public Accounts Committee warned that the situation could get increasingly desperate. 

42% of retailers believe that supply chain issues remain their biggest challenge at present, 31% see a large challenge to be continued staffing issues, 31% have concerns regarding import challenges and 19% see declining sales and profits to be of major concern. 20% of retailers see no challenges at present. There is little shift in opinion from what have been the main challenges over the last two years and what continue to be. 

What do these results tell us moving forward?

Despite the Omicron variant and its weaker symptoms signalling good news for the entire public and retailers hopeful we may soon return to pre-Covid levels of commerce and trade, there are still several ongoing variables causing issues for the supply chain. Retailers have suffered greatly in recent years due to a wide variety of uncertainties and continue to do so. Thankfully we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel when considering COVID-19 disruption, but Brexit still looks to cause havoc on the supply chain. 

The hard truth is that the era of predictable unpredictability is not going away. While the UK and Ireland have seemingly declared that the worst of this all is over in relation to COVID-19, unfortunately, the rest of the world is not quite on the same page yet. The emergence of new variants during 2022 could accentuate some of the current pressures. In this context, China’s continuing zero-COVID strategy with its tight border restrictions could create further problems. Above all, freight transportation and supply chain processes will continue to change during 2022 as more environmentally sustainable practices are adopted. Even this week we have been warned of the economic devastation and supply chain concerns that may follow after Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine. Overall while COVID-19 is no longer the largest variable at play, that does not mean global supply chains will be returning to normal any time soon – and businesses must be prepared for that. 

Business has to be resilient and capable of adapting to major disruptions so that it can develop long-term strategies and solutions to these complex challenges. The only lesson we can take away from the last unpredictable few years is that the best way to expect the unexpected is to have the resources in place to manage to do so – be that delivery outlets, staff and additional staff, and everything in between. 2022 looks to be an important year for UK retailers, both online and in more traditional outlets. Existing challenges must be addressed in order to move past the uncertain period and into the new and exciting future of retail.