The start of any new year should be full of hope and opportunity for any business, both of which would be all the more welcome after the disaster of 2020. But for European companies across a range of industries, 2021 has started full of uncertainty and an unfortunate lack of sales to UK consumers – thanks in large part to the last-minute timing of a Brexit deal.
Take, for example, Danish cycling-apparel brand Pas Normal Studios. Its smart jackets and comfy shorts are carried at a number of select stockists in the UK and across Europe. In a year when restrictions meant that many of us weren’t shopping as often in person, e-commerce sales marked a lifeline for this and many other brands. Yet all shipments to the UK from the Pas Normal website have been suspended. Taking a look through the websites of a host of companies I’ve featured on Monocle 24’s (The Entrepreneurs)[https://monocle.com/radio/shows/the-entrepreneurs/] over the past year, the pattern of uncertainty is repeated – in both directions. Cornwall-based sustainable clothier Finisterre has suspended sales to many EU countries, while the guaranteed shipping delays from Swedish fragrance house Byredo and Parisian skincare brand Typology might have shoppers thinking twice about purchases.
Sure, all of this might drive Britons (and Europeans) to discover fantastic, closer-to-home labels to engage with. But it’s a disruption to business at a time when many small retailers are already fighting to stay above water because of the lack of foot traffic, not to mention the growing dominance of Amazon. So, while the media focuses on delays for trucks at ports, spare a thought for the consumers who have their credit card at hand and digital basket ready to go, only to be told that their purchase cannot be made. And then have a think about the struggling designer or manufacturer losing further sales, careers and hope. Let’s not pretend that this is all going smoothly.