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Tradebyte research: British retail sales to EU plunge £6bn since Brexit as clothing exports


The new trading relationship with the EU has shifted operations.

Apparel pre-Brexit was a top three exporter for non-food retail, but now Health & Beauty, Electricals, and DIY & Gardening make up three quarters of UK retail exports to the EU. Health & Beauty, and DIY & Gardening are the only two categories to have seen a marginal increase in export values since 2019.

Amidst export challenges, online opportunities across Europe have accelerated since the pandemic, with marketplaces emerging as pivotal platforms for UK brands and retailers to mitigate the impact of Brexit. 

Online marketplaces, which now account for over two-fifths of the EU’s £322.6 billion annual online non-food sales, offer a streamlined path to access affluent and younger consumer demographics.

The concentration of sales among the largest EU markets means the top ten online markets account for the lion’s share of non-food online sales, with marketplace sales alone accounting for at least £133 billion of EU e-commerce. 

“The profound shift in the UK’s trade relationship with the EU has hit British brands and retailers hard. Successive waves of disruption caused by Brexit and the pandemic have significantly disadvantaged UK exporters who are having to navigate through increased friction and cost,” comments Richard Lim, CEO at Retail Economics.

“Marketplaces have emerged as a lifeline to tap into the EU market which now account for over half of online sales among the most affluent young and middle-aged EU consumers.”

“As UK retailers search for expansion into new territories, marketplaces have emerged as an important channel for growth, opening up new scalable market opportunities at low risk.”

“International retail is a complicated space to be in, particularly for UK brands and retailers looking to sell in Europe post-Brexit. From language barriers to taxation and customs issues through to warehousing and fulfilment, these are not small obstacles to overcome,” says Alexander Otto, Head of Corporate Relations, Tradebyte.

“In today’s marketplace landscape, access to relevant customer data, an intuitive understanding of the market, relevant experience and knowledge of current trends and an effective fulfilment strategy is critical to success.”



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