October 31: the end of Brexit uncertainty or just the beginning?

Paul Wheeler, sales director of buying group MHK UK, suggests retailers can either blindly carry on and hope things will get better, or find new ways to take their businesses forward


When I was preparing this article, I started with a list of dates that formed a timeline for Brexit. After four pages of twists and turns, I reached the conclusion that things will not be any more certain after October 31 and anyone hoping that date will be the start of a new chapter of greater stability will be sadly disappointed.

Speaking as a former owner of three kitchen studios – a business established in 2006 before the financial crisis and that still managed to adapt and grow between 2008 and 2013 in the turmoil that was the credit crunch, I am no stranger to a rapidly changing business environment and changing consumer demands.

The situation now is different in many ways – most critically in the way that business is reacting to the threats in our way. Our economy is stronger than it was 10 years ago, but consumers and retailers alike are consumed by doubt about the future. Everyone is indulging in fence-sitting.

In the financial crisis of 2008, nobody knew what the future held, but retailers – myself included – went out and found new ways to do business, new products, new customers and evaluated our businesses to put us in the best position to at least survive and hopefully grow in the new reality.

In 2019, I don’t see any of this spirit among retailers – many are in a state of paralysis. Others are just blindly carrying on as they have done, but expecting different results, rather like Theresa May and her withdrawal agreement. Very few are going out and finding new ways of selecting and buying products or looking outside their immediate environment to see if there are better ways.

“In the financial crisis of 2008 retailers found new ways to do business. Now they are in a state of paralysis or blindly carrying on as they have done but expecting different results”

Paul Wheeler, sales director, MHK UK

During the credit crunch, there were no buying groups operating in the kitchen sector in the UK. In 2019, retailers can speak to me and make up their own minds as to whether being part of a buying group like MHK may help them in their current situation, however I’m amazed at how few retailers are choosing to investigate alternative ways of doing things.

After all, a problem shared is a problem halved and we understand the challenges being faced. Working with a partner who has experienced all cycles of growth and economic downturns across many trading environments and acquired substantial knowledge over those years can only be a positive in the current climate.

It is important to have someone who understands your business with whom you can discuss ideas, opportunities and challenges that a post-Brexit environment is likely to bring. During this time, retailers need to be in a pro-business environment around partners who will share best practices and evaluate ideas, as well as take advantage of opportunities. MHK provides such an environment for its members, making it easier to grow and navigate the options out there, even in uncertain times.

While nobody can predict the future, there are tools available through MHK that will help kitchen retailers to manage cash flow, select the right product for their market, strengthen relationships, take advantage of opportunities, and emerge into the post Brexit world stronger and ready to take advantage of new opportunities.

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