On Friday, Britain will officially leave the European Union. Following Brexit, it will immediately enter into an 11-month transition period, during which time, it will remain within the EU’s economic jurisdiction while a new trade deal is negotiated.
It is hoped that a comprehensive agreement can be reached to avoid trade disruptions. Formal negotiations between the U.K. and the rest of the world, notably the United States, will also take place during this period.
However, while uncertainly still remains over the terms, footwear and luxury players are reacting positively to this first step in the process. “It comes as a relief,” says Mary Alice Malone of Malone Souliers. “We’ve been waiting for such a long time now, we just want to get it over with. That’s the real bonus of it dragging out so long. We all just want to find out what we need to do and move on.”
Giuseppe Santoni, CEO of Santoni, was more upbeat. “Everyone is very excited about Brexit,” he told FN, referring to the luxury London department stores that are his wholesale partners. “I’m sure they will find a solution to make it in a successful way.”
Other insiders are more skeptical. “There will be huge challenges post Brexit as luxury brands on both sides of the channel adapt to a new trading relationship, but there will also be opportunities, and we feel a very keen sense of responsibility to make Britain the very best place in the world to grow a luxury brand,” said Helen Brocklebank, CEO of Walpole, the British luxury industry group, who spoke to FN from Brussels today.
As part of the ECCIA (European Creative and Cultural Industries Alliance), Brocklebank was attending a presentation to the European parliament of a Bain & Co. study on the contribution of luxury brands to the European economy.
While the full picture is yet to be determined, she expects the British luxury sector to continue to play a key role in Europe, where it contributes nearly $900 billion in revenue annually, employs more than 2 million people and represents 10% of Europe’s total exports.