As uncertainty over Brexit continues, UK retailers are becoming increasingly concerned about what the effects of a "no deal" exit from the European Union would be. After Britain missed the first exit deadline of 29th March 2019, due to not having reached a suitable agreement, a new deadline of 31st October was announced.
With just three months to go, it appears we're still no closer to reaching an exit agreement, escalating fears that there will be chaos if we leave without any sort of trade deal in place. This has led some stores to start stockpiling goods that they fear may be in short supply by the end of the year.
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Impact on the retail industry
The outcome of Brexit could have an unfortunate impact on the retail industry if we leave without a deal. Supermarket bosses have warned that a no-deal Brexit could cause transport disruption - which will mean shelves running out of food until more can be imported.
Fears that shops could run dry are being taken very seriously across the UK, as this is something that could affect everyone. A body of people (commonly known as survivalists or "preppers") are actively preparing for an emergency situation due to the anticipated disruption.
The trend used to be more popular in the United States, but it's now being followed by UK residents as well as they stockpile food items. One such celebrity "prepper" is public sector worker Andrew Rawson, who lives in a rural district in northern England.
He has been stockpiling various food items and has even written a book called Preparing for Brexit: How to Survive the Food Shortages, to help other people to follow his lead.
He first began stockpiling food after a snowstorm cut off his village some years ago and he noticed the local shops' shelves were soon depleted. Now, he's employing the same tactics in anticipation of empty shelves in the autumn if Brexit goes wrong.
He advises making sure you can cater for yourself, your family and anybody else you live with, in the event of shortages. He also advises against sheer "panic buying" and suggests instead getting the food you would enjoy eating, rather than buying in random items for the sake of it.
He also says work out how much space you have for food storage - be practical and buy things in gradually, rather than mass-buying and having nowhere to store them.
Will supply chains be affected?
Currently, the UK has a close relationship with other countries in the EU. The fact that it may suddenly stop, leaving the UK out on a limb, could have a serious impact on trade and supply chains.
In 2017, 53% of all UK imports, totalling £341 billion, were from EU member states. Britain is part of a customs union and there are no tariffs on goods travelling between EU countries. Once the UK leaves the EU, it must have renegotiated trade agreements with the remaining member states.
If the UK wishes to exit the customs union and the EU's single market, it's almost inevitable that customs and regulatory checks will be necessary. No-one can estimate at present how much confusion there will be, as there's no agreement in place to dictate how closely the UK will align its regulations with the EU.
Retailers who currently get their products through existing EU trade deals might find there are some big changes if a no deal Brexit goes ahead. Some items may not be available, while others might increase in price.
What do supermarkets think?
Many of the UK's leading supermarkets believe that shelves could be left empty, should a no deal Brexit go ahead. Asda, Sainsbury's, Lidl and Marks and Spencer have warned that Britain is "very reliant" on the EU for food. They say there are certain products that can't be stockpiled in terms of fresh produce.
The British Retail Consortium says a no deal exit could cause disruption in transporting goods to the UK from the rest of Europe and this could have a "severe impact" on getting products on the shelves in our shops.
People are stockpiling for anything from a couple of weeks to several months, as no-one knows exactly what will happen. The experts say stockpiling "anything is better than nothing", as the future is uncertain.
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