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Third of UK consumers have ‘stopped purchasing EU goods’

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

A survey has found that 34% of UK consumers have stopped purchasing goods and services from the European Union since the UK officially left the world’s largest trading block.

Eskenzi PR & Marketing, which carried out the research, highlights that since Brexit’s historic change in the relationship between Europe and the UK, stories have circulated – anecdotally and in the media – about the changing relationship between EU retailers and British consumers, with Mastercard reportedly hiking fees on UK consumers purchasing goods from the EU, and the Guardian reporting in January about £100 custom bills for UK consumers.

However, these it says the survey results indicate that the mass exodus of UK consumers from Europe appears to be moving at a slower rate than many experts predicted.

“Following all the bad publicity around buying products from the EU post Brexit, it is clearly having an impact on consumer buying habits”, said Yvonne Eskenzi, co-founder, and Director at Eskenzi PR. “It is evident to see that UK consumers are being put off buying goods from the EU due to the various complications Brexit has created. We can only hope that this is a temporary measure: Post-Brexit Britain is still in its embryonic stage, and the true nature of our new relationship will have to be measured across the course of the following months – and indeed, years.”

The survey also revealed the following trends:

  • Costs and delays were the biggest concern for younger consumers, with 24% of 16–24-year-olds suggesting an increase in cost had put them off, and 26% suggesting increased delays were behind the decision to stop shopping with Europe.
  • Men appeared to take a more ‘combative’ stance to EU relations than women, with nearly double the men indicating they would not buy EU goods for ‘ideological reasons’ as opposed to their female counterparts.

The survey was conducted online by Censuswide with a representative sample of 1,000 UK consumers, between February 1st 2021 and February 3rd 2021.

UK parcels to EU ‘must have custom declaration form’

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Post Office customers in Great Britain are being warned that from Tuesday 29 December, any parcel containing gifts or goods that is being sent to an EU country must have a customs declaration form attached to it.

The UK’s exit from the Customs Union means that customs declarations which apply to non-EU countries has been extended to EU counties. A form does not have to be completed if customers are sending a letter, postcard or document to an EU country.

Around 45% of the total international parcel traffic received by Post Offices in Great Britain goes to EU destinations. Post Office is advising its customers that they can pick up customs forms at its branches and complete them at home before returning to their Post Office to hand over their parcels in order to save themselves time.

The new requirement applies to anyone posting a parcel from England, Scotland or Wales to EU destinations. This was already a requirement when posting a parcel to non-EU destinations. Whilst this requirement comes into effect on 1 January 2021, Post Office advises that customs labels are attached from 29 December so that customers can be sure their parcel has the correct documentation in case there are delays to their parcel arriving at their EU destination.

Customers posting a parcel from Northern Ireland to EU destinations are not required to attach a customs declaration form. However, they must continue to do so for parcels going to non-EU destinations.

Amanda Jones, Retail and Franchise Network Director, said: “We know that over the past few weeks, many people will have been preoccupied with thoughts about Christmas and the pandemic. Postmasters are on hand to provide practical advice, particularly to small businesses, who regularly send parcels to the EU. Customers should also look out for a leaflet in branches that has information about the new customs declaration requirement.”

Do you fear your company will be left behind by tech in 2020? Many retail business leaders do

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

It seems British business leaders do not believe their companies are fully up to speed with developing technologies – with only around half (53%) saying they are fully utilising their technology advantage to win business, run efficient systems and attract the best talent.

With businesses concerned about how Brexit could have an impact on data protection, changing regulation and supply chain disruption, ThoughtWorks asked a nationally representative sample of 1,026 business owners how fully they used technology to achieve growth and competitive advantage. The findings suggested that many businesses were increasingly concerned that they were falling behind in terms of technological development.

Tech agility linked to post-Brexit growth outlook

For the 47% of businesses that admitted their use of technology was not that sophisticated, 41% said they were trying to improve their business’s technological capabilities but were still in some way behind the competition. Furthermore, 6% of respondents said that their lack of technological development was holding their business back from growing.

Significantly, the level of tech agility of UK businesses correlated directly with how they thought Brexit would impact their business in 2020. Those agile, tech-driven businesses were far more likely to see Brexit as an opportunity to grow – 47% predicting growth opportunities to move into new markets and 19% believing they would be able to grow market share in existing markets. In contrast, those businesses that said their tech maturity was holding them back were far more likely to say Brexit would force them to put growth plans on hold (16%) or to downsize – and to pull out of some key markets (10%). The research suggests Brexit could be a catalyst that widens the tech gap in Britain, between those agile enterprises that will grow in 2020 and those struggling with technology that will fall further behind.

12-month business outlook following Brexit – by state of business tech agility

Fully use tech advantage Tech capabilities hold us back
There will be growth opportunities to move into new markets 47% 13%
There will be growth opportunities in existing markets 19% 11%
Little change – we’ll stick to our plans, we won’t be affected by Brexit 19% 42%
Little change – putting growth plans on hold until the dust settles 7% 16%
There will be downsizing – we are preparing for a loss of business 6% 8%
There will be downsizing – we will pull out of some key markets 1% 10%

Bleak mid-Winter ahead for retail

With the demise of Mothercare, and Marks & Spencer reporting a fresh slump in clothing sales[2], ThoughtWorks’ research shows retail emerging as the sector where fewest business leaders believe they are fully using technology to win business, run efficient systems and attract the best people (35%). Linking tech agility to Brexit outlook again, retail was also the sector where most business leaders said that, in the 12-months following Brexit, they were preparing to downsize and for the prospect of losing business.

Percentage of businesses that said they are fully using their technology advantage by sector

Media & Tech 77%
Financial Services 59%
Health 54%
Manufacturing 47%
Construction 43%
Education 40%
Retail 35%

 While it is perhaps unsurprising that businesses in the media and tech sector were the most likely to say they fully utilised their technological advantage, even here more than a fifth (23%) of businesses admitted that they were behind the leaders in their market and could take steps to improve their agility.

Tech on the Tyne

The ThoughtWorks study also explored business opinion across the UK’s major cities. Whilst London and the South East have traditionally dominated the regions for tech investment – with London companies securing $4.8bn (£3.8bn) in 2018[3] – the new research shows that Newcastle is the city where the highest proportion of business leaders say their business makes full use of their technology assets in terms of winning business, improving systems and attracting the best people (77%). Indeed, London only just beats Birmingham into second place (66% Vs. 65%).

Tech gap in Scotland

While most cities in England and Wales (apart from Liverpool) saw at least half their businesses taking full advantage of their technology assets, businesses north of the border seemed to be lagging behind. Only 47% of businesses in Glasgow – and 42% in Edinburgh – said they were fully utilising their technology advantage. Whilst political considerations around Brexit have been a cause of acute concern in Scotland, the new research suggests tech agility is also playing a big role in shaping business outlook for the period after Brexit – with businesses in Glasgow and Edinburgh least likely of the 11 cities surveyed to predict opportunities to grow into new markets in 2020 (Glasgow 18%, Edinburgh 17%).

Percentage of businesses taking full advantage of their technology and percentage predicting growth opportunities in new markets for 2020 – by city

City % Fully using their technology advantage % Predicting growth opportunities in new markets during 2020
Newcastle 77% 34%
London 66% 40%
Birmingham 65% 40%
Manchester 59% 35%
Nottingham 59% 41%
Cardiff 58% 40%
Bristol 56% 36%
Leeds 51% 26%
Glasgow 47% 18%
Edinburgh 42% 17%
Liverpool 37% 30%

Luke Vinogradov, Digital Transformation Principal, ThoughtWorks, said: Surrounded by change and uncertainty, organisations are realising they may not be taking full advantage of technology. Some have yet to start, others have focussed narrowly on digital customer experience, because it’s very visible and actually it’s a great first step. However, modern digital businesses already at the top of their game know that the kind of capabilities that have driven their success don’t stop there.

Across the organisation, making tech work for you means making choices. New ways of working can align your whole business around customer value; data can help you to build engagement and advantage; platform thinking and a test-and-learn approach will maximise the impact of your investments; and a delivery mindset will help you cut through the complexity and get things done. All of these digital capabilities can help you keep up – the right balance will ensure you get ahead.

As a trusted partner for many leading organisations on their digital transformation journey, ThoughtWorks can help you make the right choices, not only addressing today’s challenges but giving you the capabilities you need for a confident future.”