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Comment: Is your glass half-full or half empty after Brexit vote asks Nigel Collett of RPA: Group

In June this year we hit a watershed ‘glass half full, glass half empty’ moment here in the UK.  As a nation we voted to leave the EU, a decision that brought despair to some and jubilation to others. Needless to say, there has been a great deal of speculation about what the decision means for large retail brands and the companies that work with them.

Initial uncertainty is now being tempered somewhat by events, such as the unexpected 1.4 per cent July jump in month-on-month retail figures. These were almost 6% higher than in July 2015 and smashed expectations of a rise of just 0.1% to 0.2%.

That’s not all. In its latest survey polling company IPSOS Mori found that now 43% of the public expect the economy to deteriorate over the next 12 months, down from 57% a month ago.  And the proportion expecting conditions to improve has risen from 23% to 28%. 

So, it seems a lot more of us are shaking off post BREXIT angst and joining the glass half full camp. And to top it all we have just had the best Olympics ever, with Britain being hailed as a ‘sporting superstar’, thanks in no small part to innovation and design like McLaren’s shaping of the Olympic team’s racing skulls.

The pound has not put in such a sterling performance since BREXIT, but a weaker pound isn’t necessarily a negative. Goods and services priced in pounds are currently cheaper for overseas buyers, and thus more attractive to international buyers. So, it’s not just an amazing time to visit the UK for a holiday but also a great time for foreign brands to buy British creative and strategic talent at virtually Black Friday prices. 

But, what are the longer-term prospects for the retail design and project management industries post Brexit? After 2018, when we will most likely have all the paper work done and dusted, I don’t think we will see any great damage to Britain's retail powerhouse. The longer-term outlook continues to be one of growth in the UK.

Once we get through the short-term uncertainties, and the current perception of risk of the unknown continues to fade, we will no doubt continue on an upwards path.

Right now, British design and brand strategy services are highly valued internationally. Our design capabilities in particular will always be sought out, regardless of where a client comes from. At RPA:Group we fully expect to have just as many European clients after Britain leaves the EU, and in the medium to long term we also expect our international business to grow. 

Like many companies in our sector we employ a good number of European employees. We recognise the huge benefits brought to our business by the creation of a multinational creative team and our commitment to this concept will not waiver.  Like many others in this field we regard ourselves as a European company - and for us that means a European workforce.

 As long as we are nimble and ready to adapt, the government’s negotiations on continued trade with the EU will not disadvantage us in comparison to our European counterparts. The creative industry has a long history of being able to think outside the box and of being more adaptable than others.

As always, there will be some degree of uncertainty following momentous decisions that change the way things are done. Brexit may cause some clients to pause for reflection. But in our own case, since the fateful Brexit vote, we have won contracts in China and been asked to share our insights with leading Indian retailers at a business symposium in Delhi. 

In our market being competitive does not always come down to price. With millions at stake for a brand rolling out 100 new stores across Europe, it will be of prime concern that they have the right partner, not necessarily the cheapest.

Nigel Collett is CEO of RPA:Group

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