The referendum on the 23rd June delivered a painful result for those who wanted to remain in the EU and a joyous result for those who couldn’t wait to depart. I wasn’t aware of any one in the beauty business who wanted to leave Europe. If you are running your own business as I do the last thing you want is uncertainty and for many the choice to remain was based on the pragmatic assumption that leaving would make things worse not better, would replace stability with uncertainty and would raise alarms about the UK’s ability to remain a global player. The UK is an economic powerhouse – if you consider our geographical size and population – that with one day’s events trembled under the global spotlight questioning its ability to flourish.
Once the result was announced many in the UK beauty industry expressed dismay. The UK’s cosmetic regulatory body expressed concern that once outside of the the EU, we will be unable to yield any influence over the future of cosmetics product regulation and compliance. Brands voiced their thoughts on how trade tariffs might cause a severe burden on their ability to export. Fears were expressed that with a climate of uncertainty there might be a retail led recession. Investors in beauty brands were spooked and spoke about how they might curtail or stop any further investment. A sense of gloom and despair settled over the beauty business for the first 2 weeks after the referendum. Not good news at all.
So where are we now nearly 3 months later? Either we are living through a period of an illusionary high or things aren’t quite as bad as everyone feared. September’s business news included headlines like “UK services sector rebounds as companies shrug off Brexit vote shock”. We have seen news of a similar rebound in the manufacturing sector and a more modest improvement in the construction sector. Taken with signs of a recovery in consumer confidence and high street spending, it will allay fears that economic growth is grinding to a halt after the referendum. Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit said. “The UK saw business activity rebound from July’s post-referendum decline in August, enjoying the strongest expansion for five months”.
So what’s next for the UK beauty industry? It is a resilient and creative business with brands that will continue to be successful. New brands will emerge. We have world class beauty retailers – Boots, Selfridges, Harrods, Harvey Nichols and SpaceNK – that will not lose their allure or attraction. The UK – and London particularly – is a thriving centre of entrepreneurship. It is creative, dynamic and vital and that isn’t going to change. I believe we have creative brand owners and strong corporate brands that will find new ways of doing business. The UK beauty industry will cope, will learn and adapt. There will be new trading opportunities, and new markets to explore. To paraphrase Franklin D. Roosevelt “there is nothing to fear except fear itself”.