Retail Executives Limited a specialist fashion & retail recruiter of senior fashion executives has appointed former Very Exclusive Managing Director Sarah Curran-Usher MBE as Partner and Head of the new Retail Advisory division.

Curran-Usher is also the Chairman of Richards Radcliffe and a Non-Executive of French Connection.

Curran-Usher started her career at The Times on-line, before entering fashion retail as the owner of a small boutique in London and then founding my-wardrobe.com.

Curran-Usher’s main focus with be setting up and establishing the Retail Advisory division.

A new concept that allows companies both small and large, access to the best brains and expertise for consultation, whether this is just an hour or a few months.

Often a company needs to take advice but does not know where to go, we bring to them a choice of accomplished experts they can speak to ranging on all things retail.

Richard Hollister Managing Partner of Retail Executives Limited said; “Sarah Curran-Usher is an inspirational hire for Retail Executives Limited. Sarah has vast experience in luxury fashion, digital and importantly for the business will be our ‘Disruptor’. Taking apart the Recruitment industry sacred cows, breaking those china eggs and building a recruitment service anew from the modern customer’s requirements.

Topp said, Sarah is an outstanding appointment. Her combination of both corporate and entrepreneurial skills will be a real asset to the group as we begin build a new future in retail recruitment and consultancy.

Curran-Usher said, I am thrilled to be joining Richard, Darren and the team to build this exciting new platform as part of the Retail Executive Group.  REAN will be offering something new and innovative to support small to mid sized companies in the Retail sector who need to engage the expertise of Advisors within our Network.

Retail executives will be announcing other senior industry hires over the coming weeks. Curran will start with immediate effect. 3 weeks ago the appointment of Darren Topp was announced as Chairman of Retail Executives Limited.

Retail Executives Limited was formed in 2018 by Richard Hollister a veteran of the recruitment industry, previously having worked at three of the top global executive search firms. Unlike other executive recruiters the firm employs has consulting for them senior fashion and retail senior executives. Already recruiting senior fashion executives on 4 continents the firm has rapid growth plans with their modern-day approach to client’s talent needs.

Retail Executives Limited a specialist fashion & retail recruiter of senior fashion executives has appointed Darren Topp as Chairman.

Topp will be responsible for the firm’s strategic direction, growth of the firm’s advisory board and board practice.

Topp previously held senior roles in Marks & Spencer, before joining BHS and Outfit as COO, being promoted to Chief Executive Office in 2015. Most recently he was CEO at L.K.Bennett where he successfully re-structured the business. Linda Bennett bought the company back from Phoenix Equity Partners last year.

Richard Hollister Managing Partner of Retail Executives Limited said; “We are delighted that Darren has joined the business, these are exciting times for the firm and Darren is key to its growth. His knowledge of the marketplace, experience at various operating levels, he can understand the issues facing retailers and assist with solutions.

Topp said “ I am delighted to join Retail Executives LTD as Chairman and look forward to working with Richard and the team to build a new type of Executive Recruitment business that’s fit for today’s challenging retail climate”

Retail executives will be announcing other senior industry hires over the next few weeks.

Retail Executives Limited was formed in 2018 by Richard Hollister a veteran of the recruitment industry, previously having worked at three of the top global executive search firms. Unlike other executive recruiters the firm employs has consulting for them senior fashion and retail senior executives. Already recruiting senior fashion executives on 4 continents the firm has rapid growth plans with their modern-day approach to client’s talent needs.

Fashion Portfolio

A portfolio is a key tool required when applying for any roles within graphic design, and of course roles within the fashion industry are no different. While interviewing well is also equally important, a comprehensive fashion portfolio will help communicate your style, ability, creativity and understanding of the industry to a potential employer. Without a portfolio, you’re unlikely to be considered for a role in graphic design.

With that in mind, when everybody has a fashion portfolio, how can you create one that helps you stand out? Read on to find out…

1. Quality over quantity

Fashion Portfolio

When creating your portfolio, it can be tempting to include everything you have ever worked on. Especially if you are just starting out. Rather than trying to include a full range of your work, instead focus on including what you are proud of . You should only include your best work, and the work that you feel best represents yourself as a designer.

2. Experience

We all have to start somewhere. If you’re applying for your first role in graphic design, you might be wondering how you’re expected to build a portfolio without any work experience. The answer is creating experience for yourself…

Set yourself some briefs, and create visuals and more to include in your portfolio. You could even include your design brief.  This can be made up, or based on improving an existing brand. In doing this you can communicate your ability to be creative, think outside the box, and follow briefs well.

3. Keep it simple

Fashion Portfolio

It’s a known fact that people have short attention spans, particularly when it comes to looking at something on a screen. If you’re sending your portfolio as part of your job application via email, make your portfolio stand out by focusing on clean and simple design.

4. Showcase variety

If possible, include a variety of forms of design to show your full skill set. This could include website design, logo design, packaging and illustration.

5. Be flexible

If you know the brand well that you are interviewing for, consider creating a portfolio just for them. This could include tweaking your current portfolio, or creating an entirely new portfolio. Showing them that you are already on brand and understand their vision is a great way to get your foot in the door.

6. Digital and print

Fashion Portfolio

It’s likely you will need a digital version of your portfolio to apply for the role initially. You might want to also consider taking a physical version of your portfolio to any interviews you might get. In our digital era, few people would think to do this. In getting your portfolio printed, this shows you’ve gone the extra mile. As well as providing a great talking point face to face.

7. Keep things current

Avoid including anything dated. As a general rule, don’t include anything that’s more than three years old. If you’ve been taking some time out, and don’t have an up to date work to share, set aside some time and get busy on creating some new examples of what you can do.

8. Go for on-brand cohesive design

Avoid creating a portfolio that looks like it’s a collection of lots of different peoples’ work. Instead create a final product that is on-brand, cohesive and represents your style well. If you’re yet to define your personal brand, take some time to set out some guidelines to work to. Create a portfolio that is a true representation of your design style.

A carefully planned and well structured portfolio could be the difference between getting an interview and not getting an interview. It’s a key tool to help you get your foot in the door early on, and could even result in you being a favourite before you’ve even been invited to interview.

Get into Fashion

If you’re at a point in your life where you’re looking at the next steps to take in your career, it’s likely that you’ve thought long and hard about what you want to do, what will make you happy, and what will provide you with the lifestyle that you desire.

Whether you’re just out of university, or you’re looking to change your career after 15 years in a completely different industry, one thing that you all have in common is that you’re passionate about fashion. That’s often the easy part to define. It’s working out where specifically to work in fashion and where to start that’s often the tricky part…

Making a start…

Getting into Fashion

Before you start to look at routes into the fashion industry, the first step is to define exactly which area of fashion you want to work in. Potential areas include:

– Design, graphic design, retail, marketing, styling, photography, customer service, fashion buying and fashion journalism.

You might already have a clear idea on which area of fashion you want to get into. Or you might not be sure which is the right direction for you. If you’re keen to work in fashion, it’s likely there are certain areas that will suit you more than others.

Determine which area of fashion you want to work in, by doing the following things:

– Make a list of your skills. Compare these to the roles you are interested in

– Once you have a list of 2-3 areas you might like to work in, do some additional research. This will help you understand the day to day work, salary and lifestyles

– Finally, if you can, get in touch with someone in a similar line of work. There’s nothing better than speaking to someone who has first hand experience.

The route forward…

Get into Fashion

Once you know exactly which area of fashion you want to get into, you can now decide on the best way forward for you. The first thing that springs to mind is education, but university and other types of further education isn’t always right for everyone.

You may want to consider internships, or apprenticeships instead. The benefit of internships and apprenticeships is that you may have a job waiting for you at the end of your training. Internships don’t always guarantee a permanent role, but the recruitment process can be expensive. This means that if companies have a good candidate in front of them who already knows the company well, it’s likely they will offer you a job if you impress, and if they have an opening.

Apprenticeships have a clear structure. You can often also study for a degree as part of your apprenticeship. Apprenticeships pay the national minimum wage. You should be provided with a detailed training plan, the opportunity to study, and mentoring.

While internships should pay the minimum wage, this isn’t always the case. Internships can last from just a few weeks to a few months. Although there is no guarantee of a job at the end.

Whether you decide to go to university or to work as an intern or an apprentice, having a clear idea of what is is you want to do and a good understanding of your skill set will help you secure your position. This is the first step to starting your career.

If you have recently graduated, or you are looking for a new role, check our current opportunities page here:http://retailexecutives.co.uk/current-and-future-opportunities/

Fashion Employers

The fashion industry in the 21stcentury is highly competitive, but break into this industry and you could have an exciting and varied career ahead of you. Carefully selecting who you work for plays a big role in your success, not to mention your happiness in your chosen career. Today there are more fashion brands than ever before, so who should you work for, and what are the benefits? Read on to discover the top London based fashion employers, that can offer great career progression and/or amazing company benefits…

ASOS

Fashion Employers

ASOS has been named as the best company to work for in the UK in 2018. With offices in London and Birmingham, employees of ASOS are said to be creative and have an entrepreneurial attitude. ASOS are said to offer good work life balance, an above average rate of pay and a variety of benefits, including five weeks holiday plus your birthday off every year.

Gucci

Since appointing its new chief executive, Gucci has experienced an impressive turnaround thanks to Marco Bizzarri’s belief in transparency and focus on communication. In 2016, the brands revenue grew by 21%, which was double what was expected. The new CEO is said to be an excellent leader and communicator, and knows the value of providing employees with a great work-life balance and the support they need in their roles.

Paul Smith

Fashion Employers

With head quarters in London, Paul Smith has been going strong since 1970. Paul Smith is said to prioritize and encourage creativity in its employees, and focuses on building a great company culture and providing benefits to its staff. 75% of previous employees said they approve of the CEO, while 80% said they would recommend Paul Smith as an employer to a friend.

Sophie Hulme

As the winner of numerous awards, accessories and bag brand Sophie Hulme are said to be ever expanding. The company is said to offer great support to its employees, with healthy working relationships and networking made easy. In addition, the brand is encouraging of each employees input, and is always open to feedback and new ideas.

Adidas

Fashion Employers

With offices in London, Adidas are well known for their future forward approach to business. With a keen eye for tech and growing digital trends, Adidas are often one step ahead of the rest when it comes to innovation in the industry. Adidas say they offer careers with out boarders, and are known to have great career progression, allowing their employees to shape their own paths within the company.

H&M

H&M originally started with just one store in Sweden. As an employer, it has a democratic, high-performance culture, with many roles available in the UK, specifically in London. There’s a lot of focus on team work, but at H&M this doesn’t stand in the way of individual career progression, as employees are encouraged to reach their full potential, and work their way up the company.

Farfetch

Fashion Employers

Based in central London, Farfetch works on employee feedback, to continuously improve their experience for their team. While the company pays well, it does not believe that money is the number one motivation of people. It uses a semi-annual employee engagement survey to determine what people are most motivated by, and uses the results to continue to provide a better work experience for its employees. In addition, all team members are given a share of the company, which equates to a $40 million investment.

London has an endless list of fashion brands, but when it comes to choosing who to work for, it pays to do your research, to help you get ahead in your career.

We are thrilled to have a number of roles in the fashion industry in Kuwait available this month. Best suited to the ambitious, creative and adventurous, the fashion roles available are ideal for high flyers who want to get ahead in this highly competitive industry.

The positions offer great earning potential and the opportunity to explore the fashion industry in greater detail. We have four positions at intermediate level available with an ever growing and innovative fashion brand.

The roles…

Fashion Roles

We currently have positions available for a marketing manager, a kids wear designer, a ladies wear designer and head of creative. All based in Kuwait, the roles provide an exciting opportunity to relocate. These roles are ideal for those looking to advance within the fashion industry.

Marketing Manager: We have one role available for a bi-lingual marketing manager. The ideal candidate would speak both English and Arabic. Would preferably have some experience in the Middle East.

Ladies Wear Designer: We are recruiting for a ladies wear designer, who has experience with a large European fashion brand.

Kids Wear Designer: We are recruiting for a kids wear designer, who has experience with a large European fashion brand.

Head of Creative: Our fourth and final role in Kuwait is for a head of creative. The successful candidate will be responsible for the insight and strategic direction of the brand. This will include window direction, social media, photo shoots, POS materials and WGSN consumer forecasting. We’re looking for someone who has experience in a similar role. Such as someone who has worked for a large European fashion brand previously.

The location…

Fashion Roles

On the Persian Gulf in the Middle East, Kuwait is well known for its hot summers and great lifestyle. During the summer months, things in Kuwait tend to slow down a little. This does mean the country is great for beach lovers. In addition, socialising is made easy due to the air-con used across shops, restaurants and cinemas.

Kuwait has a booming economy, and it presents the perfect location to get ahead in your career.

Progression and benefits…

Fashion Roles

Kuwait has the highest-valued currency in the world, generally those that work here are very well paid. In addition, your pay isn’t taxed in Kuwait – a tax free salary and more take home pay are just some of the many benefits of working here. 

The brand we are recruiting for is innovative forward thinking, presenting a great opportunity to gain valuable experience in the industry and help you climb the ranks. The company could offer a long term opportunity too.If you’re looking to relocate for the foreseeable future, there may be opportunity to progress within the company, and really make your mark here.

To find out more about our current opportunities and how to apply, click here. If you’d like more information on our Kuwait based roles, simply get in touch: admin@retailexecutives.co.uk

In a world where economic success stories have been few and far between in the last decade or so, fashion has beaten the odds.

According to recent reports, the industry is set to grow substantially in 2018, paving the way for more choice for consumers, the emergence of new brands and more jobs in the sector.

If you have an interest in fashion or you’re keen to land your dream job in the industry, it’s interesting to have a look at what’s in store for the world of fashion and how potential growth and diversification will impact recruitment.

This guide will examine the state of fashion executive recruitment and provide a detailed insight into the landscape in 2018.

A Brief Introduction To The Fashion Industry In 2018

It’s no secret that many industries have struggled to make a mark in the last decade.

For years, the economy has been turbulent, and this has hit several sectors hard.

While construction companies and manufacturers have reported losses, the fashion industry has emerged as a beacon of light and hope.

The 2018 McKinsey & Company State of Fashion Report indicates that the industry is going from strength to strength on a global scale, with figures suggesting annual growth of around 3.5 to 4.5 percent in the coming year.

The luxury market is particularly promising, with growth set to increase by 5 percent. Globally, the industry could boast a net worth of over $2,500 billion or approximately £2 billion.

The UK’s fashion industry is estimated to be worth in the region of £28 billion (Source: British Fashion Council).

Figures for 2018 are around 1 percent higher than those for 2017.

Growing industries are beneficial for the economy, but they also provide benefits for the workforce.

Fashion is one of the most successful creative industries in the UK, and more and more openings are becoming available as a result of the expansion of the fashion industry and its evolution.

The industry is changing all the time, and just as trends on the catwalk evolve from one season to the next, consumer trends, together with technological advances, are bringing about modifications in fashion recruitment.  

It is estimated that more than half a million people work in fashion and retail in the UK.

With growth forecast, this number is set to increase in coming years.

What Do Consumers Want In 2018?

Looking good is, and always will be, a priority for all consumers. However, the changing social mindset has influenced the fashion industry greatly – perhaps more than any other sector.

The impacts have even seen significant brands like Gucci go fur-free while many others are having to find sustainable approaches to their garments in order to satisfy the growing desire for products that are free from animal cruelty.

Sustainability is another key issue, which has resulted in a movement towards timeless fashion. Seasonal trends are still apparent but fashion items that can provide longevity, even if they require a little upcycling, have become increasingly popular on both sides of the Atlantic.

While brands need to appreciate the changing face of consumer expectations, recruiters must also focus on building teams that are set to progress with the trends. After all, 2018 is unlikely to signal the end of those evolutions.

Fashion Recruitment In 2018

Thinking outside of the box.

Recruitment has changed beyond recognition in the last twenty years. Applying for a job today is a very different process. The rise of the Internet has almost certainly made an impact, but there’s also been a shift towards thinking outside of the box within the fashion industry.

Companies use different ways of advertising posts and looking for new recruits, but there has also been a growing trend for hiring potentially surprising candidates among high profile operators in the fashion industry.

Appointments have caught the eye and hit the headlines, as leading retailers look for transferable skills rather than focusing solely on industry-specific experience. Take the example of Jill McDonald at Marks & Spencer, a former CEO at Halford’s who had no experience in fashion.

Of course, recruiters are often enlisted to fulfil specific criteria, but perhaps appointments like this example show that fashion is integrating more closely into the world of business. Being creative is still very much an essential attribute, but there’s a wider pool of people who companies feel may bring something valuable to the table.

The modern fashion industry is a different proposition, and to cater for this, recruiters may evaluate a broader spectrum of candidates.

This doesn’t necessarily mean actively searching for people who don’t have a background in fashion, but it does perhaps indicate that an application from somebody who doesn’t have years of experience in the industry wouldn’t be throw out without a second glance.

Recruiters value experience and a passion for the industry, but they also recognise the potential benefits of other skills and different types of career experience.

Fashion isn’t just about producing beautiful pieces. It’s about fashion houses, designers, and retailers making money, providing secure jobs, and contributing to the overall economy.

The Diverse Range Of Roles Within The Fashion Industry

One of the most interesting aspects of fashion executive recruitment in 2018 is the diversity of posts available. Working in fashion can open you up to all kinds of opportunities in this day and age, so much so that you can have a completely different role to somebody working within the same industry now.

Fashion has grown and expanded, and it welcomes a diverse range of candidates with varied skill sets.

If you took a second to search for jobs in fashion, the sheer range of posts on offer may surprise you. There’s a veritable feast of opportunities way beyond designing, producing and selling clothes and accessories.

From digital design to branding and merchandising, buying, product development, marketing, accounting, logistics and IT, this is an industry that relies on several cogs moving in the same direction.

Modern Work Habits

The nature of modern careers has also brought about a change in working styles.

Although many recruiters still advertise full-time positions, which are office-based in a set location, it’s increasingly common to see opportunities that offer flexible working hours, the chance to be based at home and short-term contracts.

People work in different ways now, and the breadth of positions on offer reflects societal trends.

If you’re interested in fashion, and you’re looking for a job, you can tailor your search to suit your location, your qualifications and your level of expertise, as well as your preference in terms of whether you want a full-time, a part-time or a freelance job.

For employers, it’s beneficial to be able to move with the times, but it’s also natural to want to keep hold of your best talent for as long as possible.

With many people choosing to go freelance or set up on their own, it’s increasingly difficult to incentivise longevity in the industry. Within creative industries, more than a third of people are self-employed (source: Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport).

Marketing In A Modern Environment

As already touched upon, the marketing arena is one that has undergone an immense change in recent years, and social media has been a major player that the fashion industry has capitalised on more than most. In addition to revamped internal marketing methods, influencer marketing has become an increasingly integral element.

The concept of consumers wanting to emulate the styles of their favourite celebrities, athletes, and musicians is nothing new but the digital playground has changed everything. Well-known faces will post pictures or short videos wearing a particular outfit or accessory in return for remuneration.

In fact, over one in three influencers charge over $250 per post, with the biggest celebrities charging six and even seven-figure fees. (Source: Later.com)

However, this is only made possible due to the demand. As fashion directors, recruiters, and marketers become increasingly aware of the fact that most people are more likely to notice an Instagram post than a TV advert, the trend becomes even more vital.

In 2017, 78% of brands incorporated influencer marketing in some shape or form, up from 65% in 2016.

As far as marketing is concerned, almost all recruiters should dedicate at least some of their budget to this growing phenomena.

The Benefits Of Working With An Experienced Fashion Recruiter

It’s no secret that despite the positive growth forecasts, the fashion industry faces challenges.

You only have to pick up a newspaper or listen to the headlines to know that the high street is suffering as a result of changing consumer habits and competition from online retailers.

Businesses face a different set of obstacles to those experienced five or ten years ago, and it’s more important than ever to find the best people for the job if you’re looking to expand your team or develop a new area of the company.

Fashion is an alluring industry, and it’s not difficult to attract attention if you have a post available. The tricky task is finding the right candidate.

Working with a recruitment firm that has experience within the fashion industry can help to match employers with the strongest swimmers in the pool. Recruiters know who works where at what level, and they have people in mind before openings even become available.

An agent gets to know both the client and the candidate to ascertain if the position is right for both parties. By employing a recruitment firm, you save time and effort, streamlining the recruitment process to enable you to access those who tick all the boxes.

Fashion executive recruitment must evolve in line with the development of the industry. Today, working in fashion doesn’t necessarily mean working in design or selling clothes.

With the growth of online fashion businesses, there’s a demand for people who have technical skills, expertise in digital marketing and strategic thinkers who can give a high street store the best chances of riding the wave and retaining customers.

Despite the rise of technology and the increased popularity of online shopping, many people still enjoy the experience of browsing racks and trying clothes on.

If you’ve ever been into a store as a customer, you’ll know what a difference people can make to the experience.

Customer service is a priority in the 21st century, and companies are looking for people who have the capability and the competence, but also those who fit with the ethos of the business. It’s not all about the numbers and grades.

Recruiters understand the importance of personality, motivation, and passion, and they can help to root out those they believe have the potential to shine based on a specific client’s wish list.

Everyone Has A Degree, So Experience Is The Key

Once upon a time, a degree was the golden ticket to a career in a chosen field. However, as the growing desire for customer service skills shows, qualifications aren’t everything.

Given the allure of working in the industry, combined with the more relaxed academic entry requirements, fashion courses are among the most popular for millennials. While that does mean the pool is bigger, recruiters should be prepared to go the extra mile to unearth the right candidates, especially as 41% of businesses agree that entry level positions are the toughest to fill.

Likewise, graduates in fashion – or indeed any of the arts – should know that the competition for places is fiercer than ever. The arts rank 15th out of 16 subject areas regarding earnings while the number of graduates working in retail and bar work is significantly higher too.

For recruiters, candidates with a little experience and a lot of ideas are essential. Judging graduates solely on their academic qualifications could spell disaster.

Trends To Look Out For

If you’re passionate about fashion, you’ll know all about the benefits of spotting emerging trends and staying ahead of the curve. This doesn’t just relate to putting out an incredible collection that looks outstanding on the pages of a glossy magazine.

It’s about understanding the challenges facing the fashion industry, taking steps to overcome them, and identifying ways you could potentially capitalise on them.

To do this, it’s highly likely you’ll need a team of people around you. The way you recruit and the type of people you hire may make the difference between success and failure moving forward.

If you read the news, or you’re au fait with industry statistics, you’ll know that online retailers, including Boohoo.com, have recently posted huge profits, while high street retailers, such as New Look and House of Fraser, are struggling to balance the books.

The move towards online shopping, which is highlighted in the image below, may indicate a problem for those who have put all their eggs in a proverbial physical store basket, but it could also pave the way for an upturn in sales for retailers that are willing to try and cash in on an emerging trend that is gathering pace at lightning speed.

The changing landscape may require different skills and this is where a forward-thinking recruiter comes in handy.

Yes, it’s important to have people who know the industry well on your team, but it’s also wise to look for the leading lights of tomorrow.

If you can pre-empt problems and predict trends, you’ll go a long way to steering clear of trouble and driving sales.

Image source: https://www.smartinsights.com/digital-marketing-strategy/online-retail-sales-growth/

Brands face the challenge of beating the competition, but winning the war doesn’t necessarily boil down to offering better products. While the aesthetic and quality of the product are vital in the fashion industry, it’s unwise to underestimate the value of people, and the difference exceptional service can make.

Even if your business is based online, user experience counts for everything.

Whatever you sell and however you sell it, the people that represent the nuts and bolts of the operation can be as influential as those that drive the cogs.

If you’re looking for a job in fashion or you’re a client hoping to attract incredible candidates to your company, hiring a recruiter with experience in fashion executive recruitment facilitates interaction between two parties that should fit together seamlessly.

The fashion industry is booming, but it’s not all plain sailing for design houses and retailers. There are challenges, and for every business that is flying, there are those that are floundering.

The key to success lies not only in producing and promoting quality products, but also in investing in the right people.

To succeed in the fashion industry in the 21st century, businesses need to have a team that boasts diverse skills, and this is why fashion executive recruitment agencies are so valuable.

Hiring the right candidates can make or a break a company in an age where it’s increasingly difficult to outshine the competition and retain a loyal client base.

The world of fashion is changing, and there’s a much wider range of opportunities out there. Recruiters work to match clients with candidates that not only have the skills on paper, but also the creativity and the insight to move the business forward.

There are many obstacles facing fashion houses, retailers and manufacturers, but if you employ the right team, there’s every chance of overcoming them and contributing to a bright future for this blossoming industry.

If you do not already subscribe to The Daily Retailer, please do have a look. Nick Bubb was a leading retailing analyst in the City for over 30 years, spanning a number of different stockbrokers and investment banks (including Morgan Stanley and Societe Generale). He is a well-known commentator on UK retailing in the press and now runs his own retail consultancy business.

At the crack of dawn each day Nick produces a Daily update on Retail news and company financial announcements, complete with a popular Quiz of the Day.

Choosing my Winners list this year is a sobering exercise. A year always has been a long time in retail, but the last 12 months has made it dramatically longer. So looking at last year’s list, I edited the number from 30 to 24. Each year I have reviewed each company and revisited their right

The Customs Union: what it does and doesn’t do

Helping business navigate their way through Brexit has become central to what we do at Retail Economics over the past 12 months. The next few years will be extremely turbulent. Whether it’s keeping abreast of the latest developments as they unfold, understanding the potential movement of tariffs or simply gaining a better understanding of how Brexit will affect your customers – we will all be impacted.

The “Customs Union” is getting a lot of airtime at the moment and is being presented as a solution to many of the disruptions that Brexit may cause. A Customs Union would certainly help, but in itself it is not enough.

A Customs Union would deliver three main benefits to importers:

First, tariff-free trade on all goods within the scope of the Customs Union. This is the obvious benefit that commentators have focused on. It is certainly true that a Customs Union would be the simplest way to ensure continued free trading with the EU. However, do not assume that all goods would be covered – the EU’s Customs Union with Turkey explicitly excludes agricultural trade, to which significant tariff barriers apply. To ensure that agricultural trade is covered in any UK/EU Customs Union the UK is likely to have to agree to continue to observe EU rules on environmental protection, animal and plant health and animal welfare. The EU may even press for continued compliance with EU rules on agricultural support (CAP) as a condition.

Second, a Customs Union operates without rules of origin. In practice, this means that there is no need to prove that goods meet a local content threshold in order to enjoy duty-free status. For example, garments made up in Romania from fabric made in China could be imported to the UK free of duty under a Customs Union, whereas they would not get this tariff free treatment under an arrangement (i.e. free trade agreement) that included rules of origin, because not enough of the value (content) of the product would have been generated within the EU.

Third, and of particular significance to importers, membership of the Customs Union means that the UK would be required to continue to apply the EU’s Common External Tariff. In practice this means that the UK would be obliged to apply exactly the same preferential terms to imports from outside the EU as it does now. For example, if the EU offers duty free access to South Korea (as a result of the EU/Korea free trade agreement) then the UK would be required to apply the same duty free treatment. At a stroke, the Customs Union would secure all of the preferential importing arrangements UK importers currently enjoy. Of course, the much mentioned downside of this aspect of the Customs Union is that it effectively removes any independence for the UK in setting its own trade policy.

We also need to be clear what the Customs Union does not do.

Firstly, and stating the obvious, the Customs Union only applies to trade in goods. A Customs Union is all about tariff treatment and as there is no such thing as a tariff on services, it really has no bearing at all on the UK’s future relationship with the EU on trade in services.

Second and, deep breath, a Customs Union does not remove customs red tape. All trade with the EU/Turkey Customs Union requires customs declarations and must undergo customs clearance procedures. Advances in customs technology and systems means that this does not necessarily have to hold up traffic through the port, but nevertheless it is an additional cost which is not currently incurred on trade with the EU.

Thirdly, and of enormous significance in the area of food, the Customs Union simply does not cover a range of other regulatory functions that would be delivered at the border post-Brexit. The issue is most serious in the area of plant and animal health where checks apply to all “imported” foods and, in the case of meat, result in an average wait at the port (in the UK) of 3 days for veterinary clearance. (Veterinary controls already apply to trade within the EU, but they are not applied at the border). There are potential solutions to this problem, but they would have to be agreed in addition to an agreement on the Customs Union.

The government, and business need to be crystal clear about what the Customs Union can and cannot deliver. They need to be clear that they are willing to pay the price of the Customs Union, which will go beyond losing independence for trade policy. They need to be clear that they can make the necessary investment in technology and infrastructure to be able to deal efficiently with new customs clearance procedures. Finally, they need to be clear that additional agreements will need to be struck in order to avoid new non-customs barriers arising at ports post-Brexit.

The Retail Economics Brexit service helps to inform, develop and enhance your understanding of what’s in the pipeline and how Brexit is likely to impact your business. There’s been a noticeable shift in the conversations I’m having with retailers which has turned into planning for the worst and hoping for the best. If you don’t have a strategy on how you may mitigate these risks, you need one.