Gerald Böse, president and CEO of imm Cologne and Living Kitchen, has claimed Brexit poses a major threat to independent retailers and urged them to hold talks with their suppliers to avoid key business relationships from unravelling.
Speaking exclusively to kbbrevew in the run-up to January’s international furniture exhibition in Cologne, Böse insisted Brexit was “a big, big threat for all of us – for us as organisers, but also for independent retailers.
“They need to discuss with their suppliers what they can do and how they can maintain their business relations. It’s very important just now to keep a European context and to discuss possible solutions together. So this year’s exhibition will be a mix of entertainment, edu-tainment and, of course, tough business talks.”
Böse agreed that the current uncertainty over how Brexit would ultimately play out “isn’t helping” and claimed the situation was beginning to undermine economic stability.
“You’re seeing the first signs of the impact of Brexit on the British economy,” he said. “They’re small signs, but the biggest threat is uncertainty. For investment planning and long-term business relationships, you need a solid framework. At the moment, it’s a bit like gambling, it’s like poker. The first to move will lose.”
Asked if suppliers had planned for the various potential outcomes stemming from Brexit, Böse argued such a strategy was unworkable.
“There are so many questions open and until there’s a political solution I don’t see that companies can really plan properly,” he said. “They can prepare themselves for certain scenarios, but you can’t plan for every scenario. It’s very costly.”
Böse went on to claim that the EU was “in a terrible position” because they risked “breaking off the whole European Union” if they agreed the wrong deal with the UK.
“That’s the most challenging part of it,” he said. “It’s too late for a soft deal. It’s not appropriate. I still hope there’s a solution that will at least continue the trade relations between the UK and Europe. But the UK has decided to opt out and the politicians have a lot to lose. If they allow the UK to cherry-pick in terms of their relations with the EU, where does it end? The next country is already standing in front of the exit door. That’s a big dilemma for the EU politicians. Resigning from this deal is very popular with some other countries in the EU. They’ll say, ‘oh, why not? Let’s do it like the British – with less obligations but full access to the market.’ ”
Böse agreed that the impact of Brexit on UK dealers had so far been minimal, but warned that this situation would change.
“In the next year, we’ll run business as usual,” he said. “They can order, they can import, but then it will be challenging. I hope there’ll be an extension to the negotiations. This could be a possible scenario and they’ll continue anyway. But nobody knows.”
• For the full interview and more details about Living Kitchen, see the October issue of kbbreview