Assuming the vote on the 23rd of June produces a majority for Brexit, we would expect the Prime Minister to come under intense public pressure to invoke article 50 of the treaties straight away and set the divorce process in motion.
In such a scenario we forecast modest growth for UK retail, but this is down to stagflation - the combination of rising prices with flat-lining demand - a night- mare scenario to manage for the Bank of England and for retailers too.
To put this into context: Post Brexit growth is not something to be celebrated, because even in 2008, the year of the greatest finan- cial crash since 1928, UK retail grew due to runaway inflation. Declines in UK retail spend are extremely rare and yet according to latest ONS data the sector is flat-lining already.
After a Brexit vote, for the second half of 2016 retail volume declines are likely. On the one hand this is a byproduct of inflation, as Sterling will come under pres- sure and most product imported from over- seas (from clothing to furniture to consumer electronics) will become much more expen- sive - we believe that UK retailers have only hedged insufficiently. Trade barriers and tar- iffs might also be erected adding even more to consumer prices. Rising prices will dampen demand.
Secondly for British shoppers there is less money going round. Another round of belt tightening will be on the agenda, driven by a crash in consumer confidence, a falling housing market, more bankruptcies, un- employment going up and wages falling again.
The big unknown is what will happen to EU citizens in the UK. We would expect a substantial amount of EU citizen to leave due to employment moving abroad (banks, insurance, law firms etc). Perhaps stricter retroactive visa requirements for low paid EU staff in warehouses, fac- tories and on farms would force many to emigrate. If this happens, from an operations standpoint there will be real headaches in the supply chain, but perhaps more impor- tantly in terms of spend the major worry is the addressable shopping pool being shrunk. Mass EU emigration and the loss of purchasing power on a greater scale could not be offset by retailers in the UK (or by re- turning British ex pat OAPs from Spain).
And at this point the BoE will be forced to raise interest rates, as UK inflation starts to soar, the oil price recovers ...
Learn how to effectively navigate the market research process to help guide your organization on the journey to success.Download eBook