The outcome of Brexit negotiations will not be known for a few more months, and it’s too soon to second guess what this could mean for manufacturers and retailers in the U.K. Will we default to World Trade Organisation rules and tariffs? Will there be a more helpful “soft Brexit”? Or a bespoke Customs Union?
It’s still too early to tell, but so far the only impact on consumer spend in U.K., as of the beginning of the year, has been:
- Inflation: We saw a return to inflation in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) driven by the depreciation of the pound – and we expect inflation to peak in the first half of this year. That being said, inflation is still less than CPI.
- Price sensitivity: The U.K. has become a more price sensitive market, and retailers and manufacturers have been working closely together to avoid passing on all of the supply chain cost price increases to their shoppers. We expect this to continue throughout 2018.
- Consumer sentiment is still strong and, although people may be more concerned about the economic uncertainty, it is not yet mpacting FMCG spend. We do, however, see some weakness in discretionary spend in other channels, for example, out-of-home consumption, clothing and homewares which has been accentuated by a fall in real household incomes.
Looking ahead, there is a bigger impact on the horizon for retailers and manufacturers than Brexit. There is a structural change underway which is fundamentally impacting the way we shop in the U.K.; and it has the potential to be more even more disruptive than Brexit.
The accelerated growth of the value retail channels, the shift to online, continued digital disruption, the longer term decline of large stores, the growth of private label and the urgent need for retailers to reduce operating costs are all major influences on the way we shop. Together, these factors are reshaping the shopping landscape and will influence consumer spend and retailer and category performance more than Brexit over the next 12 months.