In 2016, on the eve of the UK’s EU referendum, Ann Summers CEO Jacqueline Gold was one of more than 1,000 signatories on a letter from business leaders backing the Remain campaign.
Gold told Yahoo Finance UK’s Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded show she was “hugely disappointed” in the referendum’s result as she believed remaining in the EU was best for business and for the economy.
“I think people got sidetracked by other issues, which in my view aren’t as important,” Gold said. “I think if you’ve got the economy right, then you can get other [things] like the NHS right.”
Gold said the Brexit outcome has created a lot of uncertainty.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson has committed to Britain withdrawing from the European Union by 31 October, with or without a deal. The British Retail Consortium has warned a no-deal Brexit would be “a disaster for both consumers and retailers,” given the potential friction surrounding cross-border trade and tariffs.
In Ann Summers’ annual report, for the 53 week period ending 30 June 2018, Gold wrote that the “collapse of exchange rates and higher stock cost prices cause by the Brexit referendum fallout” had shaved £1.5m from the retailer’s profit on a like-for-like basis. Gold also wrote that the potential for a diminished workforce caused by Brexit was adding “both cost and administrative distractions.”
“I think the government’s handling of [Brexit] is a complete car crash and of course there is concern about the future because we don’t know what the future looks like,” Gold said on the Global Change Agents show. “I think that retailers as a whole are resilient and they are very adaptable, they will adapt to change.”
Ann Summers, she said, will remain focused on its five-year strategy. Its annual report pointed to a store refit programme, web enhancements, product innovation, and its work with ad agency J. Walter Thompson as opportunities for future growth.
“If there are blips along the way that we are not expecting, as retailers do, we will deal with them,” Gold said on the Global Change Agents show. “I can’t say that I’m happy about the [Brexit] decision, I definitely am not, and I am concerned about the future, but I know that we will get through it.”
Global Change Agents with Lianna Brinded explores the journeys of some of the world’s most inspirational women across business, tech, and academia. Catch up on all the latest episodes here.