The chief executive of major British fashion retailer Next has said there is “no evidence” the Brexit vote has hit consumer spending, and even indicated that the company will be able to make savings which is can pass on to customers in the event of No Deal.
Next CEO Simon Adam Wolfson, Baron Wolfson of Aspley Guise, said that there appeared to be “a level of fatigue around the subject” of Brexit among the general public, who have been hammered by dubious scare stories concerning an impending shortage of drinking water, sandwiches, diabetes medicine, condoms, and more by Remain holdouts ever since they voted to Leave the European Union in 2016.
“We can see no evidence that this uncertainty is affecting consumer behaviour in our sector,” he added — his own company having increased its sales by 2.5 percent year-on-year to £4.22 billion, thanks to strong online growth making up a fall in in-store sales.
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In fact, Lord Wolfson predicted that in the event of a clean, No Deal Brexit, the new, provisional tariff regime that the Government has announced for the scenario would reduce overall costs, allowing them to pass “relatively modest” savings on to their customers.
“In the (seemingly unlikely) event that these provisional rates are introduced in the near future, we estimate that there would be a net reduction in the tariffs we pay of around £12m to £15m,” he explained.
“In the medium term, our intention would be to pass on cost price improvements to customers, in the form of better pricing.”
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Lord Wolfson also bucked the trend among his peers in business of complaining about the pay increases which have been associated with a supposed immigration squeeze — while EU migration is down significantly in the wake of the Brexit vote it remains net positive, and non-EU migration is at a 15-year high — saying low unemployment meant “real income squeeze was coming to an end”.
The Tory peer’s assessment may carry more weight than that of his contemporaries, with Tom Stevenson, investment director at Fidelity Personal Investing, describing him as “the sector’s most intelligent and thoughtful chief executive.”
“[Lord Wolfson] understood sooner than anyone the winds of change blowing through the high street and he has positioned Next for the challenges ahead,” he explained.
“It won’t be a smooth flight but at least the pilot’s got his eyes wide open.”
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