During the Wimbledon Championships, Steve and Adriana Walkington go crazy. Their fast-growing company, Zoe Alexander, which they founded in Canterbury a few years ago, offers stylish tennis clothing for boys between the ages of four and 12.
Orders are piling up at this time of year from people in the United Kingdom, the European Union, the United States, the Far East, Canada and Japan. The business is benefiting from increased interest in tennis around the world.
“After the French Open at Roland Garros, things start to get a little hectic, and then with Wimbledon everything gets a little crazy as young players want to be in the last gear,” says Steve.
But expanding a business with world markets to its full potential from the UK these days can mean additional barriers due to Brexit, shipping delays and much higher costs for customers. So those who order Zoe Alexander clothes online from the UK and want to have them delivered now know a new reality.
“Now we are relocated to Europe,” the company tells them. “Unfortunately due to Brexit and UK lockdown restrictions, we had to leave England to allow our business to survive and grow.”
The Walkingtons decided they had to relocate locks, stock and barrels with their two sons, who give the company its name, last fall and are now in the process of moving to new facilities in Romania where they are not only free from the bureaucracy of the Brexit, but also benefit from an abundant skilled workforce and help from the country’s authorities.
Six months after the UK finally left the EU single market, thousands of other small businesses have faced similar problems and many have moved entirely to the EU or set up branches or warehouses within the EU to avoid export delays and costs. Advisers from the Department of International Trade have encouraged many to do so. Authorities in EU countries, including the Netherlands, Austria and Romania, are doing their best to help UK companies relocate their operations to the continent, knowing that local jobs and new activity will be created. economical.
By returning to the single market, companies with a large EU customer base can also transport goods in bulk, avoiding charges on individual items that have generated higher costs. They can also avoid the problem of VAT charges that affect their customers.
Of the small businesses that have stayed, a high proportion report continuing negative effects on trade, despite assertions by the UK government at the end of the year that any difficulties they would face would simply be temporary “start-ups”. A recent survey of 651 UK companies conducted by the Institute of Directors for the Financial times found that of those who trade with the EU, 31% said they had suffered negative impacts on their trade with customers in EU member states. Only 6% said things had improved since Brexit and 58% reported no change.
Last month, an analysis by HMRC showed that British food exports had fallen by £ 2bn in the first three months of 2021, with dairy sales plummeting by 90%.
Brexit, storage and Covid controls are often blamed for much of the recession, but the industry has said the figures show structural rather than initial problems with the UK’s exit from the EU.
For Zoe Alexander, there seems to be no going back. It is now well established in Prahova, Romania, employs a dozen people and hopes to be able to incorporate more soon.
Steve says that an order from an EU customer on a Monday will be delivered the next day. But for UK customers who want smart equipment for their tennis-playing children, there’s nothing like such fast service, with additional charges, including courier costs, that have tripled. “I think it’s going to continue to affect UK companies, period,” says Steve.