Tag Archives: Brexit

You Could Be In For A Nasty Shock This Easter

What’s “shrinkflation”? It’s the practice of selling a smaller product at the same price, and it’s increasingly common in the chocolate industry. Procurious looks at three big stories about Chocolate supply management that have hit the news in the past week. 

Regulation impacts complexity, complexity impacts costs, and costs impact the size of your chocolate bar.

Shrinkflation: Why Brexit means Cadbury chocolate bars will get smaller

It might be time to panic-buy your favourite Cadbury chocolate bars in bulk, because Cadbury UK’s parent company (Mondelez International) has warned that Brexit could lead to higher prices, or shrinkflation.

What’s shrinkflation? It’s the practice of selling smaller products for the same price. Mondelez has done this before, when its new-look Toblerone was revealed to have wider gaps between its iconic chocolate triangles, reducing the weight from 400g to 360g but selling at the same price. A pack of six Cadbury Creme Eggs – an Easter favourite – was also reduced to five eggs with only a slight decrease in the recommended retail price, from £3.05 to £2.85. The company has pointed to rising commodity costs, the falling value of the pound and an increase in cocoa prices, while Brexit is expected to make it increasingly costly to do business with other countries in the future.

Mondelez’s UK boss Glenn Caton told The Guardian that his organisation is watching the Brexit negotiations closely. “First of all [the Government] needs to make sure we have a stable and thriving U.K. economy,” Caton said. “If the economy is growing, all businesses benefit from that. Secondly, ensuring there is no new, more complex regulation and that there is free movement of goods and minimal barriers to trade. Regulation impacts complexity, complexity impacts costs, as do trade barriers and tariffs.”

Mondelez has invested more than £200m in Cadbury UK, including £75m on modernising manufacturing at Bournville in Birmingham, the home of the 193-year-old Cadbury brand. Bournville is also home to the global R&D team, which has grown from 25 to 250 people since Mondelez took over in July 2013.

Mars reinvests US$70 million in US supply chain while president warns of protectionism

Mars is re-shoring its manufacturing operation in a move that will mean over 95% of its chocolate products sold in the US are made domestically.

The investment of $70 million will add approximately 250 new jobs to production sites across the US, including a Mars Food factory in Greenville Missouri which will receive a $31 million injection. Last year, Mars poured US$52 million into its chocolate factory in Ontario, Canada.

The announcement was made on the same day that Mars Good President, Fiona Dawson, told the American Chambers of Commerce to the EU that protectionist trends worldwide are “threatening to undermine global trade and make the world less connected”.

“The absence of hard borders with all their attendant tariff, customs and non-tariff barriers allows for an integrated supply chain, which helps to keep costs down. The return of those barriers would create higher costs, threatening that supply chain and the jobs that come with it.

“If Britain ends up trading with the EU on the basis of WTO rules, ‘Most Favoured Nation’ rates would come into force. In the area of confectionery that alone would mean tariffs of around 30%.” 

Prince Charles seeks to halt chocolate-industry deforestation

HRM Prince Charles, a keen environmentalist, convened a meeting with global cocoa and chocolate companies to target deforestation in the cocoa supply chain. Delegates from twelve major companies, including Hershey, Mars and Nestle, met with senior government representatives from two of the world’s leading cocoa-producing countries, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana.

In his speech to the attendees, Prince Charles noted that aside from environmental damage, “The most powerful direct reason for action is that deforestation threatens to undermine the very resilience of the cocoa sector itself, and with it the livelihoods of the millions of smallholders who depend on it, due to the increased climate variability that follows forest loss.”

The meeting resulted in a Collective Statement of Intent to end deforestation and forest degradation in the cocoa supply chain.

That’s more than enough about chocolate. In other procurement news this week…

UK Grocery Chain Waitrose introduces trucks powered by rotten food

  • Waitrose has partnered with bio-fuel company CNG Fuels to place an order for 10 flatbed trucks that will be powered entirely by rotten food.
  • The fuel will be sourced from unsold food at supermarkets across the UK. Globally, an estimated one-third of all food, or 1.3 billion metric tons of produce – goes to waste every year.
  • The new biomethane trucks have an average range of nearly 500 miles, with the biofuel to cost 40% less than diesel fuel. The biomethane emits 70% less carbon dioxide than diesel.

Read more on Konbini.

Boeing’s VP Supply Chain nominated for US Deputy Secretary of Defence

  • The White House has nominated Boeing’s Patrick Shanahan as Deputy Secretary of Defence, with a view to tap Shanahan’s knowledge of the business side of military aircraft procurement.
  • In December, Trump rattled Boeing management with a Tweet complaining about the high cost of replacing the presidential plane (Air Force One) and threatening to cancel the program. Since then, the relationship between the White House and Boeing appears to have improved.
  • Under new ethics rules, Shanahan will be required to recuse himself from any Boeing-related procurement contract decision for the next two years.

Read more on Seattle Times.

Should Procurement Pros Be Concerned About Global Trade?

Renowned economist and Big Ideas Speaker Dr Linda Yueh explains why CPOs needn’t panic about the President Trump administration but there are causes of concern. 

Register as an online delegate for the London Big Ideas Summit 2017 here.

Donald Trump made good on a campaign promise on the first day of his presidency by signing an executive order indicating the United States won’t ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal.

Though expected, the move caused a media storm and a flurry of responses from politicians and businesses all around the globe. But what does this mean for supply managers?

Many CPOs are understandably nervous about the Trump administration’s policies with regards to global trade. The resurgence of protectionism in the U.S., coupled with the continuing fallout and trade effects of Brexit, has left many procurement professionals wondering which region of the world they should plan to source from in the future.

The TPP was a massive free-trade agreement advocated by the Obama administration, aimed at deepening economic ties between the U.S. and 11 other Pacific Rim nations, cutting taxes, and fostering trade to boost economic growth in the process. Trump argued on the campaign trail that the agreement would be harmful to the U.S. manufacturing sector. As he signed the withdrawal order, he called it “a great thing for the American worker”.

Economist, broadcaster, author and Big Ideas Summit guest speaker Dr. Linda Yueh’s message to CPOs is one of caution but it’s not time to panic.

Don’t panic

According to Linda, there are three reasons not to panic about what Trump’s protectionist tendencies will mean for procurement, trade, and global supply chains.

  • We need to keep in mind that trade takes place under WTO rules. China is the U.S.’s biggest trading partner, despite no free trade agreement being in place. Of course, if Trump were to pull out of the WTO, then that would be a game changer. But, globalisation, especially e-commerce and the Internet linking markets and people, will mean that trade is likely to continue across borders as it’s hard to see a significant roll-back Costs of trade, of course, are another issue to be focused on.
  • Luckily, the Trump administration hasn’t honed in on e-commerce, which is good news for procurement and supply chains. Currently, one in ten transactions are already undertaken via e-commerce, and this figure will continue to grow.
  • Trump may have moved quickly to sign the TPP withdrawal order on his first day in office, but that wasn’t a formal agreement. Extricating the United States from NAFTA for instance will require renegotiation time and then a period of notice before that free trade agreement would end. Even then, most trade agreements include implementation periods, so a “cliff edge” is unlikely which gives businesses time to plan. Therefore, there’s no need to panic or overhaul your supply chain immediately. But, of course, forward planning and following economic policies would be wise. Also, take Brexit as an example – if Britain succeeds in triggering Article 50 in March 2017, then the UK is scheduled to leave the EU by the end of March 2019 – almost three full years after the people’s vote. And even there, the Prime Minister has indicated that there may be an implementation period to allow more time for businesses to adjust to leaving the Single Market.

Things to watch

So, Linda warns that supply managers should keep an eye on certain factors as global trade adjusts to these seismic political shifts.

1) U.S. border taxes – recently, Trump threatened BMW with a 35 per cent border tax on foreign-built cars imported to the U.S. market. This isn’t an isolated incident and American companies are under even more pressure to produce in the U.S.. Congress is also considering a similar tax, so that is worth bearing in mind as that would have the force of legislation.

2) U.K. Tariffs – one of the consequences of a “hard” Brexit where the UK leaves the EU without any preferential trade deal, which would include no agreement on the Single Market, Customs Union, is the re-emergence of customs for EU trade. Right now, significant customs procedures only apply to non-EU shipments. But, with around half of UK exports going to the EU, taking leave of Britain’s membership in the EU with no deal would means the end of free movement of goods. More customs declarations and duties would raise costs, slow down supply chains and certainly add time at border checks. A potential ‘hard border’ would be a particular issue for Ireland.

3) Resourcing Brexit – the UK Government also needs to think about the resourcing challenges involved in ramping up staff as well as IT systems to cope with the doubling of customs checks on the UK border.

4) NAFTA – As mentioned earlier, Trump has also flagged that the North American Free Trade Agreement (between Canada, Mexico and the U.S.) is up for renegotiation. If you’re a U.S. company, you need to start making plans now about how these changes will affect you. The same applies to any other of America’s free trade deals with 20 countries that Trump would have the authority to re-examine.

What about China?

Globalisation has helped China become a manufacturing powerhouse, but with numerous closed markets.

However, there are very good reasons to continue to do business with China. Wages may be rising but that helps businesses to think about China as a market as well as one production locale in a supply chain. Plus, with growing protectionism in America, China’s President has signalled that China may take more of a lead in globalisation. There’s a lot to watch for.

In short, Linda’s advice to CPOs around the world is keep calm, but keep an eye on the details as the globalisation landscape is shifting significantly. Global trade won’t end tomorrow but it will likely look rather different in the coming years.

Join the conversation and register as a digital delegate for Big Ideas 2017 in London.

Financial Troubles Spell Tough Times for Small Businesses

The start of 2017 looks set to be a tough period for small businesses. With increasing number of businesses being wound up, it appears the high street’s suffering is far from over.

nuddss/Shutterstock.com

The past twelve months have been hard for small businesses, and it doesn’t look as though 2017 will offer much respite. Changing consumer trends, and economic and political factors, are already taking their toll on the UK’s High Street.

Over 760 businesses ceased trading in December 2016, with a further 1093 small businesses scheduled to be wound up this month. And, according to a survey of the latest insolvency notices published in The Gazette, some industries are being harder hit than others.

Small Business Suffering

Between the companies wound up in December and January, as well as those which failed in the third quarter of 2016, it brings the total number up to nearly 5,500 failed businesses.

With the official figures for the final quarter of 2016 due for publication in January 2017, cause and effect is yet to be confirmed. But it is certain that wherever a business is unable to weather restrictions in cash flow, insolvency looms.

The research was carried out on behalf of London insolvency practitioners Hudson Weir. It reveals that some industries are being hit harder when it comes to failing businesses. The study revealed that 14.5 per cent of these companies were operating in the retail and food and drink sectors.

However, it’s in the construction industry where the impact is felt most acutely. According to data collected during the second quarter of 2016, 2450 construction companies ceased trading. Next most affected was the wholesale, retail and repair of vehicles sector, with 2065 company insolvencies.

And it’s not only small businesses suffering from lower trading towards the end of 2016. Retail giant, Next, has issued a warning over trading for 2017. The company saw a drop of 3.5 per cent in the run up to Christmas, and anticipates a similarly gloomy picture for 2017.

Brexit or Cash Flow to Blame

The reasons for company insolvency can be complex, ranging from unrealistic planning through fraud and unforeseen loss of market share. But the root cause of is it frequently simple: inadequate cash flow.

Financial trouble tends to strike early in the business life cycle. Only 41.4 per cent of the UK businesses started in 2010 survived to their fifth birthday.

But how much of an impact has the Brexit vote and uncertainty had on insolvencies? Although the UK economy seems to be surviving the immediate post-referendum period, vulnerable business sectors – like construction – have experienced contraction.

Restaurants, cafes and other food outlets are heavily represented in the latest insolvency reports, too, a trend which could reflect the recent well-publicised rise in food prices. Even large companies such as catering giant Compass have been affected by the consequences of a weaker pound.

Hasib Howlader, a chartered accountant at Hudson Weir Ltd, commented on the survey results.

“Brexit is unlikely to bring good news for small businesses, and it seems now it’s just a question of how bad it’s going to be. With more than 40 per cent of small businesses struggling to survive beyond five years even in a pre-Brexit climate, it’s now more important than ever for them to be looking for warning signs that their business may be unhealthy.

“If cash flow is a problem, and you can no longer pay your bills as they fall due, the earlier you speak to an insolvency practitioner the better.”

Mitigating the Effects

Even though businesses are at the mercy of circumstance, it’s possible to mitigate the effect of uncertain situations like Brexit. Hudson Weir recommends that business owners:

  • Get to know the normal patterns in cash flow data

When a business keeps good records of its cash flow over a period of years, it’s possible to identify seasonal and other trends, and plan for them.

  • Look to the future

The logical next step after record-keeping is making a cash flow forecast. A clear-eyed view of incomings and outgoings six months to a year in advance helps manage business expectations.

  • Keep up to date with invoicing and payments

Each invoice should be accompanied by clear payment terms, and it’s well worth enforcing these. It’s also worth getting to know customer payment habits, since any unusual delays can be early indicators of financial trouble.

  • Make long payment terms the exception, not the rule

30- and 60-day terms make cash flow management more complicated.

  • Focus on managing cash flow

This is something even highly profitable business should do, as out-of-control cash flow undermines profitability and jeopardises future prospects.

An Expert’s View on the Future of the UK Economy

The media have painted a gloomy future for the UK economy thanks to the events of 2016. But one is breaking ranks – and it’s not all bad news.

A few weeks ago, Procurement Heads enjoyed an insightful business breakfast hosted by the Chilworth Partnership & Venture Recruitment Partners at the Chilworth Manor Hotel. While we were there, we heard from one of the UK’s leading economic commentators, Alex Brummer.

Brummer has been City Editor at the Daily Mail since 2000 and is a multi-award winning economic finance commentator. Brummer was speaking on the topic of Brexit and the potential impacts on the British economy.

To add further spice, there was also the topic of “Trumpenomics” to discuss after the much-publicised US election result. Brummer is no fool, and whilst he was pro-Brexit, he empathised with the shock both events have caused.

Sense of Optimism

Despite the doom and gloom from his peers in the media, there was a sense of optimism from Brummer. He described the UK economy as “having taken the punches pretty well”.

Indeed, in the 3rd quarter we have seen growth at 0.5 per cent. Additionally, we are likely to see annualised growth in the UK of around 2 per cent. This is a faster rate than any of the Group of Seven (G7) countries.

From a recruitment perspective, there is much to celebrate as well. The unemployment rate has dropped to 4.8 per cent, and the number of people in employment is at its highest in 30 years.

Whilst the Chancellor’s Autumn statement next week will likely reveal a dampening of economic expectations, Brummer asserted that infrastructure investment in the 3 ‘Hs’ will boost the economy in time – Hinckley Point in Somerset, HS2, and the expansion of Heathrow.

UK Economy “Punching Above its Weight”

Back to Trump in the US. Brummer argued that his pledge to reduce corporation tax from 37 per cent, and a massive increase in infrastructure spending, will see the UK’s burgeoning Services sector well placed.

In this respect, he asserted that the UK ‘punched well above its weight’, operating at an annual surplus of £100 billion. Only time will tell just how this new political and economic relationship between Britain and the US will work.

One thing is for sure is that Brexit certainly hasn’t been an immediate disaster, reflected by the strong performances of the FTSE 100 and FTSE 250 since June. Brummer claimed a lot of this is down to businesses bringing their operations, and therefore more of their investment, back to Britain.

Tangible example of businesses positive reaction to Brexit can be seen at Nissan, Ford and more recently Google, all making positive long term commitments to the UK. More businesses investing in Britain is surely a good thing for our employment?

Challenges to Come

Brummer warned of the failings of Europe, describing the EU as an “Economic disaster”. And the facts are scary:

  • Greece’s GDP has dropped by 25 per cent,
  • Youth Unemployment in Italy is now at 37 per cent, and
  • Growth since Germany joined the EU is stagnant.

Brummer did not underestimate the UK’s adjustment to Brexit and nor should we. But perhaps we should try and look at the positives of the events of the past few months.

There are challenges to come, like the possibility of a trade war, Trump going back on his economic policy, and the Pound weakening a lot further. Like many in the room, we came out with some reasonable optimism to see this not as a problem but as an opportunity.

To quote Brummers’s closing remark we should “see the glass as half full, not half empty”.

Could Brexit Cloud have a Silver Lining?

The Brexit result upset the apple cart. It also left many people searching for a silver lining to the clouds on the horizon.

This article was written by Daniel Ball, Director, Wax Digital.

Marmite – you either love it or hate it as they say. Well, Tesco for one was probably agreeing with the second of those sentiments recently when its rocky relationship with the brand’s owner Unilever hit the press.

As you’ll remember the food giants’ spat was triggered when Unilever stated it would need to raise its UK prices. This was in order to offset the impact of the pound’s post-Brexit weakness against the Euro in its supply chain.

Tesco retorted by removing Unilever products from its shelves. A bold move considering the food manufacturer owns many leading consumer brands.

Weakening Sterling

To recap, in mid-October the pound fell to a value below €1.10 for the first time since March 2010. The pound had generally been on the slide ever since the UK’s EU referendum back in June. It was also performing weakly against other major currencies including the US dollar and those in most emerging markets.

In many ways this is bad news for UK consumer and business to business purchasing. Both as individuals and organisations we’re pretty heavily reliant on global supply chains, meaning that it will cost domestically-based organisations heavily.

UK manufacturers sourcing parts and materials from overseas to make products locally, will pay more due to poor exchange rates.

Equally retailers and wholesalers buying end products from other countries will pay more to put them on their shelves or fill their warehouses. These cost increases will inevitably be passed on to UK business customers and consumers alike.

Returning to Domestic Focus?

However the situation may not be all bad and there could be a silver lining in this post-Brexit cloud. One potential positive outcome from this situation could be some British supply chains choosing to return to a more domestic focus.

Weighing up the options in a less than favourable global financial position, it may make sense for some UK businesses to explore the cost benefits of buying locally. This will help to remove exchange rate risk, even if local supply is not the cheapest price book option.

After years of decline, UK manufacturing may actually receive a boost and resurgence of ‘Buy British’ standards of the past. However this will be fuelled by necessity, rather than a Brexit campaign.

Admittedly it’s an ambitious scenario. Imagine the impact of Tesco commissioning UK food producers to come up with viable, locally made alternatives to replace Unilever’s full range. Especially considering its brands comprise around half of the worldwide grocery market share.

Secondly, consider how a weak pound may also drive overseas buyers to look to British suppliers for pound-based pricing. This will allow them to realise the benefit when the Sterling costs are converted back into their own stronger currencies. UK suppliers could see new market openings and opportunities to trade overseas that once didn’t exist.

British supply may suddenly become in vogue.

Silver Lining in Currency Battles

For procurement teams choosing to buy domestically, a move such as this will mean significant focus on supplier sourcing and close inspection of supplier relationships. Necessary checks and due diligence would have to be built in, in order to ensure any changes in supply didn’t leave the business at risk.

Equally procurement professionals working supply side in the UK should seek to advise the business on how to make the most of new opportunities and negotiate effectively in supply relationships.

Brexit is rather like Marmite in that it divided the nation. But while there are fears about the UK’s future after Brexit, recent currencies-related battles have highlighted a potential silver lining.

Now could actually be the time where we see both onshore and offshore buyers eyeing up UK supply options over going overseas or opting for their foreign domestic choices.

Procurement would need to ensure necessary checks, due diligence and information management in new sourcing activities. There would be a need to ensure swift and effective onboarding. New contracts and relationships would have to carefully managed to minimise ongoing trading risk with new partners.

But if procurement can pull this off, who’s to say this cloud couldn’t have a silver lining?

Not Worth The Money – Will Entrepreneurs Avoid Business in Britain?

The Great British Pound is in trouble again this week and it’s making budding entrepreneurs think twice about their business plans.

Talk of a Hard-Brexit Sparks Global Concern

The pound plummeted to a 31-year low last week sparking global concern. The crash followed Prime Minister Theresa May’s announcement on Sunday 2nd October, which revealed a firm timeline for triggering Article 50 and the beginning of Brexit. Extra fuel was added to the, already well-stoked, fire when the media reported that she would opt for a complete break from Europe- a “hard brexit”. Reports  already suggest that a “hard brexit” could result in a loss of 70,000 jobs and cost £10bn in tax receipts.

With the pound sitting at $1.27 against the US dollar, chancellor Philip Hammond scuttled to New York with the hope of reassuring America’s biggest banks about the consequences of Brexit. He will try to convince the Wall Street powerbrokers that London will maintain its position as the world’s leading financial centre once the break from the EU is complete.

The pound is also falling against the euro this week, hitting a five-year low and continuing to escalate concerns.

Weak Pound Triggers Rise in UK Services Sector Prices

The dropping value of the pound is already affecting the UK services sector as input prices rose to a three and a half year high in September 2016.

David Noble, group CEO, CIPS, said: “Firms raised their prices in response, to counteract increased costs for fuel, food and elevated wage bills and as the weaker pound had an effect.”

Companies demonstrated their concerns at the ongoing uncertainty over Brexit implications through their reluctance to forge ahead with confidence.

“It’s clear that the pace of expansion has cooled since the first half of the year, reflecting widespread concern about the potential future impact of Brexit”, David commented.

Is Brexit Scaring Off Entrepreneurs?

The aftermath of Britain’s Brexit referendum back in June 2016 saw a strong display of optimism from many entrepreneurs. Indeed, a survey conducted by the Financial Times confirmed that the majority of founders and investors had confidence in London retaining its status as Europe’s biggest center for start-ups. But, is there a change in the wind?

Diana Paredes, CEO & Co-founder at Suade Labs and passionate entrepreneur spoke with Business Insider last week about the effects Brexit will have on entrepreneurship.

She questions why anyone would opt to start a business in the UK given the current economic climate. Operating in London adds a premium in terms of housing and talent and people often see the many business opportunities on offer as a justifiable compromise for quality of life. However, with the future so uncertain, is it worth the risk and sacrifice?

Existing organisations might also be keen to relocate their bases to elsewhere in Europe where it is cheaper to operate, less isolated and they can continue to be regarded as a European company and not simply a British one. 

If you’re an entrepreneur, what are your thoughts? Is the dropping value of the pound enough to make you run a mile from UK business? Let us know in the comments below.

Find out what else has been happening in the world of procurement and supply this week…

Samsung in Trouble Again

  • It’s been a month since Samsung recalled its new flagship phone, the Galaxy Note 7, following several cases of it exploding and injuring customers.
  • The company have been issuing replacement devices to customers who bought Galaxy Note 7 phones.
  • However, a Samsung recently started smoking uncontrollably on a flight before takeoff, forcing the cabin crew to evacuate the plane. This could lead to a second recall and a disastrous outcome for Samsung.
  • Google announced its Pixel smartphone this week and could be well placed to steal a whole host of disappointed Samsung’s customers.

Read More at Business Insider

Uber’s Self-Driving Cars

  • Uber’s self-driving car pilot program may want to fasten its seat belts after the bumpy beginning it has reportedly gotten off to.
  • The cars have reportedly gotten into accidents and ignored traffic signs during testing in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • Whilst it is still very early days for self-driving cars, it’s believed that they are, ultimately, inevitable given the overall, enticing end-game which should see the cars combatting road deaths.

Read more at Tech Radar

Supply Chain Leaders Pressured to Embrace Climate Change

  • Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) meets next month in New York with the current cri de Coeur being “bold climate action”.
  • Analysts have observed that multinationals must raise their ambitions by investing in climate finance, transition to renewable energy, and find more innovative was of ensuring resilient supply chains.
  • As well as encouraging change in organisational culture to embrace clean energy and other climate solutions, BSR insist that supply chain managers join Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) managers in becoming .intrapreneurs.
  • Supply chain managers can – and must – play a major leadership role in addressing the alarming consequences of aberrant global weather conditions.

Read more at Supply Chain 24/7

Drones Tested for Emergency Cell Service

  • Verizon Communications is testing the deployment of large-scale drones to provide mobile connectivity in emergency situations when the land-based cellular network has been damaged.
  • The drone which is being flown by American Aerospace Technologies, is nothing like the small, quad copter devices flown by amateurs at home. With a 17-foot wingspan, Verizon’s drone more resembles the types of unmanned aircraft used in the military.
  • Data gathered in Thursday’s trial will be shared with the FAA in order to help craft future rules regarding drones, Verizon said.

Read more at Fortune

Brexit Presents Export Opportunities for UK Business

Could an increase in export opportunities be a silver lining among the Brexit clouds for UK businesses?

Much of the reporting in the business world on the Brexit has focused on the potential negative impacts. However, there could be benefits for British businesses, including SMEs, in an increase in exports opportunities.

The weakening of the pound is believed to be a contributing factor to this growth. This has made British products and services cheaper overseas. As a result it’s provided British manufacturing with an opportunity to compete in foreign markets.

UK “Needs to Improve” in Export Market

The Flash UK Purchase Managers Index (PMI) has revealed export business rose for the second straight month, and to the greatest extent in two years.

Additionally, a recent survey by the Federation of Small Businesses suggested that the number of small businesses exporting could double, due to the drop in sterling value. This could potentially help to cushion the economy from the uncertainty of leaving the EU.

However, it’s not all positive. Despite the potential boost for exports from the drop in the value of sterling, Britain is still significantly behind the government target of £1 trillion of exports by 2020.

The recently appointed Trade and Investment Minister, Lord Price CVO, stressed: “The UK punches well below its weight in the export market and badly needs to improve.”

Increasing Overseas Tenders

Procurious caught up with Stuart Brocklehurst, CEO of Applegate, to ask him what the key factors are in export decisions. Since the result of the EU referendum, Applegate PRO, has experienced a 20 percent increase in overseas tender requests.

Brocklehurst commented, “With concerns over domestic demand, exports offer a great diversification of revenue for UK businesses. The decline in sterling means our goods and services are around a tenth cheaper for overseas buyers. This presents a significant opportunity for UK businesses.”

It’s worth looking at the situation from 2 sides when it comes to procurement – UK and non-UK based. For non-UK based procurement, the UK has become a lower-cost manufacturing option. There is a significant opportunity to make savings, as the goods and services in the UK are now 10 per cent cheaper.

Inside the UK, however, it’s a different story for procurement. As the prices fall in the UK, many procurement organisations will be faced with a tricky decision. Should they re-shore their supply chain or not. For example, manufacturing businesses currently planning to make capital investment priced in US dollars have seen the real-cost price increase by 10 per cent.

There’s also a question of currency stability. The pound may drop further in the coming months, so what can procurement do? Brocklehurst stated, “Companies can either mitigate this risk by purchasing derivatives, or purchase locally in order to avoid the volatility altogether.”

SMEs Uncertain on Exports

One interesting point that Stuart Brocklehurst makes comes in contrast to the positive note sounded by the Federation of Small Businesses. Brocklehurst argues that, although there has been a strong increase in overseas orders and export opportunities, many SMEs still don’t want to get involved in exports.

“When it comes to SMEs and exports, nothing is guaranteed. Some SMEs don’t want to get involved in exports, particularly where there are concerns about red tape. They’re hesitant to proceed where there are administration overheads, as they’re worried about getting it wrong,” says Brocklehurst.

Brocklehurst also believes that if there is a UK slowdown, this will be a benefit for businesses exploring export opportunities. Nevertheless, it shouldn’t be taken as a certainty that exports will completely offset the effect of falling currencies on purchases, and a potential economic slowdown.

In 2008, at the height of the Global Financial Crisis, many believed that the export market would help the UK economy. However, due to recessions in many other countries, demand for UK exports actually weakened, and the recovery took longer than expected.

Realising the Opportunities

Whatever the UK economy looks like in the coming months, it’s clear that the Brexit isn’t all bad. It’s also undeniable that it has presented clear export opportunities for UK businesses.

However, many companies remain uninterested in exporting, even with the potential revenue and business growth opportunities. It’s down to business leaders to help drive this strategy through.

Equally, for procurement, it’s time to decide how sourcing will look in the coming months, and ultimately when the UK leaves the EU.

Applegate PRO is the UK’s foremost sourcing database, helping to link buyers and suppliers, and streamline the eProcurement process.

The platform is being utilised by a wide range of companies across the world, including Airbus, SpaceX, General Dynamics, NATO headquarters and The White House.

Facts not Fear: The Impact of Brexit on US Business

Institute for Supply Management (ISM) CEO Tom Derry tells Procurious that people need facts, not speculation and fear, when it comes to understanding the impact of Brexit on US business.  

ISM took the unusual step this month of releasing a supplementary Report on Business, focusing specifically on the impact of the UK’s Referendum on EU membership on US business.

The decision was prompted by a flood of enquires from US business and media representatives about whether the data for this month’s highly anticipated and influential report would reflect the fallout from Brexit.

“We decided to go back to our panel of over 600 procurement professionals with a tailored series of questions about the net financial impact of Brexit on their organisations”, said Derry.

“More importantly, there has been an enormous amount of speculation about the impact of Brexit, fed by a sense of unease and uncertainty. ISM was in a position to gather real data and put the information out there so businesses can make informed decisions based on facts, rather than fear, concern or emotion.”

Negligible Impact

The report will serve to dispel much of the speculation around the impacts of Brexit on US business. The vast majority of those surveyed reporting that Brexit will have a “negligible” impact on their business. Only one in three thought their firm would be negatively, or slightly negatively, impacted.

The main concerns for those who do anticipate an impact include the exchange value of the dollar, changes in demand globally, financial market uncertainty, and currency movements.

“The report demonstrates that despite the speculation, the majority of US businesses feel that Brexit will have a negligible impact”, says Derry. “This is because the US has a comparatively low export economy at only 13 per cent of GDP, so we are relatively insulated from the impacts of currency movements and global demand. We’re not a huge commodity exporter, although the strength of the dollar is of course a concern for those who are in the exporting business.”

Derry says that in the short-term, trade relationships are stable. “For US firms doing business in the UK or EU, very little has changed. For now, we’re good – business is predictable, and we love predictability and certainty.”

Future Investment Shift

In the long-term, however, US businesses may not choose to invest additional dollars in the UK. Historically, a lot of companies (such as car manufacturers) have used the UK as their port of entry into the EU, due to its shared language and talented workforce.

Derry added, “That option may no longer be so attractive, and discretionary investment will probably shift to Eastern Europe – Poland or the Czech Republic – to have a presence within the EU, and take advantage of low-cost labour.”

Derry says that the Brexit referendum is a historical event. However, in 10 years it is likely to be seen as a political decision, rather than an economic one. “The ‘sky is falling’ scenario is certainly overdone”, he says. “I don’t think we’re going to see the fracturing of the EU over Brexit.”

“It’s important to keep our vision focused forward. As supply management professionals, we work in the global economy and a major shift, such as Brexit, forces each of us to recalibrate our global supply strategies and trade relationships. The EU is the largest single market in the world – we can’t ignore it.”

Click here to read the supplemental ISM Report on Business: Brexit Report.

British Businesses Need to Respond to Brexit Now

British businesses can’t afford to wait before they take action and respond to the post-Brexit situation in the UK.

With uncertainty still abounding, and business implications not yet fully understood, two separate reports have confirmed that British businesses need to be taking action to prepare themselves for the Brexit.

Slowing UK Economy

The Markit/CIPS Purchasing Managers’ Indexes for both construction (weakest performance in seven years), and services (lowest growth in just over 3 years) showed that the UK economy was already slowing down before the Referendum took place.

The economic uncertainty following the June 23rd vote is likely to lead to further falls for July. Experts have advised that businesses need to take immediate action to mitigate these falls, particularly in the service sector.

And despite a fall in purchasing associated with these industries, companies also reported on-going supply chain pressures, including lengthening lead times linked to transportation delays, and lower supplier stocks.

Challenges for British Businesses

At the end of last week, the Institute of Directors (IoD) launched a paper outlining a wide-ranging assessment of what the Brexit means for British businesses.

While the IoD suggested that the UK will most likely retain access to the single market for goods, albeit with some concessions, the real concerns raised were also for the service industry.

The report highlighted that 83 per cent of IoD members had a link with Europe, whether via export, import, supply chain, staff or otherwise, and that these businesses needed to begin conversations with EU clients and supply chain to clarify what these changes will mean.

However, the IoD paper also offered the following thoughts:

  • The UK is unlikely to be able to deal with new trade partners whilst re-negotiating with the European Union and amending existing third-party arrangements.
  • Passporting for financial services will be difficult to negotiation, as remaining EU members will see this as an opportunity to shift business to European cities.
  • The IoD expects EU nationals living here to be able to stay once the UK has left the EU, but called on politicians to clarify this status as soon as possible.

In the immediate aftermath of the referendum vote, IoD members considered the key priorities for the Government to be:

  • Take steps to stabilise the economy in the face of any negative reaction in financial markets.
  • Securing a new trade agreement with the European Union.
  • Prioritise new UK trade agreements with high growth markets and ensure preferential market access to third countries (via existing EU trade deals) is maintained
  • Clarifying the status of EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens elsewhere in the EU.
Coherent Response

Simon Walker, Director General at the Institute of Directors, stated: “In the wake of the EU referendum vote, we now need politicians to respond coherently to provide stability as we work out our future path. We must not lose faith in the ability of British businesses to overcome these challenges. 

“The IoD is resolutely positive about the opportunities that globalisation brings. We were promised an open and outward looking country after Brexit. Whoever ends up in charge must deliver on that pledge – a Britain that continues to play an outsized, global role in a world that is coming together, not moving apart.”

Allie Renison, Head of Europe and Trade Policy at the Institute of Directors and author of the report, added, “In the wake of the referendum, the most pressing concerns for businesses are responding to the short-term consequences stemming from disruption to financial markets, and preparing for longer-term ramifications, and maximising any opportunities that a post-Brexit landscape stands to offer.

 “With such a high degree of integration into EU markets, British businesses need to consider the possible outcomes of negotiations and whether we have access to the single market. There are a number of areas outlined in this report where we can forecast a range of potential changes to policy that firms should take into account when making any adjustment plans in the wake of Brexit, with both short and longer-term perspectives in mind.”

Brexit: Reflections of a Procurement Professional

In the cold light of day, and after a weekend’s reflection, a procurement professional reflects on the implications of the Brexit.

Following my pre-referendum thoughts on supply chain trade and the EU, I was looking forward to the event itself.

A severe weather occurrence, disrupted travel during a six hour journey from Guildford to Norwich, and with the Mission Impossible theme tune on repeat in my head – this was my voting experience on the 23rd June.  I made it to Norwich to vote #Remain just in time before the polling station closed.

Storm on the Horizon

The real storm was not the weather. it was the result to come in the dawn with the UK #Brexit result.

My initial, personal, reactions on June 24th were of shock, anger and fear.  The value of the £ tumbled and the FTSE100 index crashed.  The ‘Leave’ campaign ideas, clearly taken by some as Brexit ‘pledges’, are already confirmed as “mistakes” or not “realistic”.

But time, even a few short hours, is a great healer. The £ and the FTSE both recovered a little on the 24th after their initial crashes.  My optimism and positivity is also slowly returning. The UK now has a fantastic opportunity.

Staying United

The first opportunity is to stay united. “IndyRef2” is already on the table, and the Northern Irish might follow suit. I doubt if many voting to leave the EU anticipated the potential break-up of the UK. Is this really an ‘unthinkable’ now?

The focus is now on what happens next. If there’s one thing I’ve heard through all of the interviews and opinions in the past few days, is that no one really knows what the future looks like now.

No state has left the EU before. The process is set out, yet it’s not tried or tested.  We have to find a new Prime Minister, and possibly face a General Election, to appoint the team to lead the UK through this.

Procurement & Strategic Relationships

There are uncharted and uncertain waters ahead. Procurement and Procurement Professionals can shine through and add the value we’ve all talked about for years and now have the opportunity to deliver.

Keeping in close contact with strategic suppliers and working together to build certainty in existing trading relationships might be a crucial first step to steady the ship.

Businesses need to keep focus on their mission, vision and values, and make sure they are still relevant in a post EU, UK. Most will need to adapt, and Procurement needs to ideally provide, or at least proactively source, the help and guidance to do that.

Procurement must not sit back and wait any longer for the invite to the table it has been waiting decades for. At the Big Ideas Summit in April, we heard lots about Procurement being the source of talent within organisations – it’s time to step up.

I expect we’ll all be revisiting our segmentation matrices and risk maps this week for starters! We should rapidly review processes and procedures ready to make ourselves, our teams and our businesses as agile as we can, ready to adapt to the changes as they unfold.

A wiser man than me said “agility is core”.  Let’s make this work team UK.