Brexit: A Retailer’s Perspective

Uncertainty surrounding Brexit continues to rumble on, with media coverage focusing heavily on the impact to consumers and big businesses. A recent HIM survey showed that 61% of consumers expect food shortages, 14% have begun stockpiling and 43% want retailers to stock more British produce. This paints a picture of concern and doubt amongst consumers as to the actual impact that Brexit will have on UK food and grocery. But what about the retailer? Is consumer fear justified? Or are retailers prepared and ready for a Brexit on October 31st?

We recently spoke to 250 independent and symbol convenience store retailers to understand their attitudes and behaviours towards Brexit. Read on as we share 5 key stats from the survey and highlight the potential impact Brexit will have on convenience retail.

27% are concerned about food shortages when the UK leaves the EU

Overall, retailers are less concerned about Brexit-related food shortages than consumers, however more than one in four still expect their store to suffer from food shortages. The top four categories that retailers think will experience Brexit related shortages are Fruit & Veg (36%), Meat (28%), Fish (26%) and Dairy (25%).

There is clear concern from retailers around the availability of fresh produce post-Brexit, which justifies concern from shoppers and highlights the challenges and uncertainty Brexit brings. There is no doubt that there is a case to be argued that wholesalers and suppliers are as much in the dark as retailers and shoppers, and are doing all they can to mitigate the impact of Brexit, however, there is an opportunity to reassure retailers that everything possible is being done to limit disruption through communication.

8% of retailers have already begun stockpiling

Despite concern over food shortages, less than one in ten retailers have started stockpiling ahead of Brexit. With the biggest concern surrounding fresh produce, it is very difficult for retailers to prepare in advance, due to the short shelf life of fresh products. The most common categories that retailers have been stockpiling in preparation for Brexit are Alcohol (11%), Tinned Foods (9%) and OTC Medication (6%).

In contrast, when we spoke to shoppers, 14% had started stockpiling products ahead of the October deadline. Shoppers are stockpiling OTC Medication and Tinned Foods, which correlates with retailer behaviour, but they are also stocking up on frozen food. There is no doubt that retailer behaviour stems from consumer behaviour. Retailers are reliant on the support of the government and their wholesalers and suppliers to influence consumer trends.

12% expect to have to buy emergency stock from supermarkets

More than one in ten retailers expect to have to use supermarkets to buy emergency stock post-Brexit. There is a clear risk to wholesalers that they will lose sales and footfall as a result of these retailer expectations. We have seen some great examples of wholesalers communicating with their retailers around Brexit, however, there is a clear need for more, in order to reassure retailers.

50% feel their wholesaler isn’t providing enough support around Brexit

As previously mentioned, with uncertainty affecting everyone across the food and grocery industry, from shoppers to head offices, there is a clear case to argue that wholesalers are as much in the dark as their customers. That being said, 50% of retailers feel under-supported by their wholesalers, which indicates a potential gap in the communication.

Wholesalers are, no doubt, working flat out to ensure the impact of Brexit is as minimal as possible, and I believe retailers understand that uncertainty is felt across the entire supply chain. Communicating this is critical to showing support and solidarity with their customers.

22% believe wholesalers could do more to prevent food shortages post-Brexit

In particular, 40% of retailers want their wholesaler to stock more British products in order to prevent Brexit-related food shortages, 14% want them to put more pressure on suppliers and 11% want them to increase warehouse capacity. Many wholesalers will already be doing these, with some being more achievable than others, however, it comes down to the same conclusion every time – it’s how you communicate this. Wholesalers need support from their suppliers to shout about product origins and to highlight the work the entire chain is doing to mitigate the impact of Brexit.