Apr 24, 2017
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Cath Kidston chief calls for liberal Brexit, sees higher UK and Asia sales

Apr 24, 2017

The CEO of Cath Kidston has become the latest style and retail industry executive to call for a liberal, open Brexit deal to be negotiated while also saying that the company has seen higher sales since the Brexit vote.

Cath Kidston

Kenny Wilson said in an interview that “Brand Britain” generally and Cath Kidston specifically need access to key markets and European talent, while EU nationals working for the firm need to know their presence in Britain is secure.

Wilson told the Press Association that the "strength of brand Britain" is closely linked to the perception that the UK is "open minded".

He said: "The strength of Brand Britain is really important to us, and I would like to see access to countries from a trading perspective, whether that's the EU or otherwise. We have a lot of EU colleagues and I want to make sure those people are protected, are able to stay here and flourish and help us grow. And I want to make sure there is still a fresh supply of talent open to this country.”

His words came as the UK prepares for a general election in which the Conservative Party is expected to win a larger majority. Many analysts say this could strengthen the chances of a soft Brexit that retains EU trade deals. Previously, the government’s slim majority has meant so-called hard Brexiters have had a stronger say as they could threaten to vote against the government.

However, there is also uncertainty with Prime Minister Theresa May still pledging to reduce net migration radically.

Wilson added that while Brexit is a major issue in Europe, Brand Britain has not been harmed in Asia and Cath Kidston has benefitted from perceptions of the UK there. He said the brand has been successful partly because of its “because of its Britishness,” but that it has also been boosted by owner Baring Asia’s insider knowledge of the Asian region.  The company expects earnings to rise this year the back of its Asian strength.

In its domestic market, Wilson said the post-Brexit vote plunge in the value of the pound mean its 77 UK stores have seen a sharp increase in tourist spending. Tourists from Japan, China and the US have been particularly noticeable in its stores, driving sales in London, Edinburgh and Oxford in particular. Wilson said the company’s stores in tourist locations are seeing faster sales rises than the general increase it is enjoying across the country.

And while Cath Kidston has seen some negative effects from price rises connected to the falling pound, it has not suffered as much as it might have done as its finance chief took a snap decision on the day of the Brexit vote to hedge against currency fluctuations until last month.

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