Brexit the wrong fit for English fancy dress firm
With Christmas music blaring, staff at English fancy dress company Smiffys are stuffing elf outfits and Santa Claus suits into boxes to send to clients across Europe. Before long, the headquarters of the 122-year-old family business will be heading to the Netherlands too - a sign of how uncertainty over Britain’s exit from the European Union is forcing some companies to rethink their plans. The company, based in Lincolnshire, central England, says it has been badly hit by the fall of the pound since Britons voted for Brexit in June, because it imports most of its products from manufacturers in China.
Smiffys, which says it exports to 42 countries and has an annual turnover of £56 million ($70.5 million), is also concerned about the lack of clarity on when Britain will trigger the divorce process from the EU and whether companies will be able to access the bloc’s tariff-free single market post-Brexit. “We cannot afford to wait on a wing and a prayer for the government to negotiate something,” said Director Elliott Peckett. “If there are no deals in place prior to us pulling out then we will be faced with exporting 30-40 percent of our sales to Europe, which will carry a tariff that will make us uncompetitive.”
He declined to say when the firm would shift its base to the Netherlands. It is also opening a distribution site in Germany next week, and has offices in Australia and the United States. Smiffys currently employs dozens of non-British EU nationals among its 250 staff in the UK, and Peckett complained at the lack of clarity from members of parliament or the government about whether they would have the right to stay. “We’ve had absolutely no commitment from any MPs or government agencies or bodies to say the jobs of those people are safe and that they can continue to live and work in the UK.” —Reuters