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Why a Vale of Glamorgan shop owner is worried sick by Brexit

by Sally Stephenson | 01.10.2018

I run two shops in Cowbridge in the Vale of Glamorgan. The negative impact that Brexit is already having on my business is causing me sleepless nights.

My husband, our two children and I moved from Nottingham to South Wales in 2011, when he was relocated to the Port Talbot steelworks by Tata Steel.

I had always wanted to run my own shop, so in 2014 I set up The Pencil Case in Cowbridge, selling children’s stationery and school uniform. The business was an immediate success – within 6 months of opening I had won Best New Start Up Of The Year in the South Wales Business Awards.

In October 2017 I opened a second shop in Cowbridge, The Toy Box. Things were going well. But the vote for Brexit in 2016 changed that.

Immediately after the referendum the value of the pound fell dramatically. Many people do not realise that most of the stock we buy – pencils, pens, toys, school uniform and so on – is imported from overseas, especially the EU, so our cost prices are directly affected by the exchange rate.

By the end of 2016, the drop in the value of the pound had worked its way through the supply chain to our cost prices. In January 2017, all our suppliers put their prices up by at least 10%, some by as much as 25%.

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It was an across-the-board, overnight hit to the business. In order to avoid putting up prices to my customers, I have had to make every single cost saving I can to cover the huge cost increases.

The hardest thing was having to let two members of staff go, as I just couldn’t afford their wages any longer.

We are now facing the possibility of the UK crashing out of the EU in less than six months’ time, which has the very real potential to put thousands of small businesses like mine out of business.

Then we have all the red tape the Government is now telling us to prepare for.

In the increasingly likely event of no deal, I will have to register for something called a UK Economic Operator Registration & Identification Number. I will have to update all our contracts to reflect the fact that we are now classed as an official importer.

Worst of all, I will have employ a customs broker and submit an import declaration to HMRC every single time I buy products directly from the EU. There are also likely to be new customs duties to pay.

I have been working on contingency plans – to cut more cost, drive more sales and put some prices up – but the reality is I might have to close one or even both of the shops in the next 12 to 18 months.

Small businesses like mine make up 99% of all the businesses in the UK. More than a third of the people employed in this country work for a small business.

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab wrongly says we are just using Brexit as an excuse for our own shortcomings.

If he would like to come to Cowbridge, I would be delighted to show him how Brexit is already having a negative impact on small businesses like mine. The only way out of the mess that he and his friends have created is a People’s Vote with an option to stay in the EU.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

One Response to “Why a Vale of Glamorgan shop owner is worried sick by Brexit”

  • I am very sorry indeed to hear of your plight. I would, however, think twice about inviting someone bone-headed as Jeremy Hunt to your premises given his reputation of listening to people’s problems when he was in charge of the NHS. You’d probably end up even angrier than you are already now.