It’s been a couple of years in the making, but we seem to be no clearer as to where the UK is heading post-Brexit. The B-word has dominated the news for months, even if every daily bulletin offers up a plethora of insight that provides no further clarification or understanding to anyone without an advanced degree in politics. Honestly, I tried to shut it out some time ago until we were much closer to a resolution – but now I’m half chuckling / half wanting to cry at the state of sorry affairs and the knowledge that we’re nowhere near the light at the end of the tunnel just yet. For a long time know I’ve been wondering about the impact Brexit is not only going to have on the cost of food, fuel, travel and everything in between, but superficially on the industry I’ve worked within for the past 14 years. Beauty is big business, and much of what drives the market is the international brands we’ve come to love so much. But what impact will Brexit actually have on the beauty industry, and should you really be stocking up on your favourite makeup and skincare products before the UK leaves the EU? Here’s my opinion and the lowdown on the impact of Brexit on beauty…
WILL MY FAVOURITE BEAUTY PRODUCTS BE MORE EXPENSIVE AFTER BREXIT?
It seems the worry is real. Recent research conducted by FOREO discovered that 46% of women surveyed who used European skincare brands believed their favourite products would go up in price, while 26% have already started stockpiling or would consider doing so in the fact of potential price hikes. The truth is, right now we really don’t know what will happen because we don’t know what a potential deal looks like, but it can be assumed that some of our favourite brands and products will be subjected to additional processes and import taxes that they may pass onto the consumer. Additional checks are also likely to be put in place, delaying stock arriving onto UK shores (more on this later) which could also drive the demand (and therefore price) of products higher.
However, price changes aren’t that easy to implement and tend to be kept to once a year – so the impact of Brexit (or even a No-Deal) won’t be as instantaneous as you may think. Brands may choose to completely absorb any additional fees, charges or taxes, absorb them temporarily until there’s more clarity and stability, or be forced to delay passing them on until they can implement an annual price rise with their major high street retailers.
The long-term impact may well be that you’re paying out a good 10-20% more for your favourite cleanser or eyeshadow palette, but it will undoubtedly be on a case-by-case basis; we really don’t know. The impact of Brexit on beauty is really uncertain.
IS IT LIKELY THAT BEAUTY PRODUCTS WILL GO OUT OF STOCK AFTER BREXIT?
From my experience working with major high street retailers, they only carry a few weeks worth of stock due to the logistical and financial implications of storage. Brands do tend to store much more (from my experience anywhere from 3-12 months worth depending on the brand and popularity of product) because of minimum order quantities with their factories and the huge time frame of shipping – often it takes three months for product to arrive via boat! However, there’s a very real possibility of some super popular products going out of stock (even temporarily) as brands and retailers struggle to keep up with demand.
France recently conducted a ‘Brexit test run’ and fully checked every single vehicle (and person) attempting to leave their shores and enter the UK; it caused huge delays and a lot of chaos, so if your must-have mascara is being driven over from Europe it may mean you’re waiting longer than you may like. My advice is to make sure you have an ample supply of your favourites if you’re genuinely worried about running out any time soon.
DOES LEAVING THE EU MEAN WE NO LONGER ADHERE TO INGREDIENT LEGISLATION?
The CTPA (Cosmetics Toiletries and Perfumery Association) is a body that represents the voice of the industry and has been pretty hot on the heels of what Brexit and a potential No-Deal means for the brands producing and selling within the UK. When the result of the referendum was first announced they stated: “CTPA would like to reassure its members, the cosmetics industry at large and of course our millions of consumers that the UK decision to leave the EU does not alter the strict safety laws that govern our cosmetic products.”
However, things have since changed. In a nutshell, we’re currently bound by EU legislation that bans the use of over 1200 ingredients that are deemed potentially damaging; in comparison, this number in the US is only 9. The CTPA have said that brands wishing to sell in the UK should still adhere to these standards, but the future is unclear as no firm government advice currently exists. One MP has clarified that they’re looking at converting EU law into UK law for this purpose, and that it’s covered off within proposals, but no formal answer is as yet available.
Having worked in product development, ingredient legislation, packaging and the legalities of claims made (and having attended my fair share of CTPA conferences!) I can safely say that any brand operating beyond the confines of the UK will continue to operate within the wider EU guidelines. You simply cannot sell in certain countries if their standards aren’t met, so brands won’t be reversing or amending their processes, ingredients or packaging any time soon. The only names this may potentially impact are the ones selling purely in the UK – and they’re few and far between. It’s highly unlikely that much will change, if at all.
WILL BREXIT MEAN ANIMAL TESTING IS NO LONGER ILLEGAL?
Animal testing has been illegal within the EU since 2013, with the legislation coming from central European goverment. However, it’s actually been illegal in the UK since 1998, so we were well ahead of the curve here by implementing it fifteen years before it was done at EU level. It’s safe to therefore say there will be no change to animal testing laws post-Brexit. (Probably the most clarification you’re going to get on any one Brexit-related issue!)
WHAT WOULD YOUR ADVICE BE TO A FELLOW BEAUTY ADDICT?
1. Shop smart. If your favourite French skincare is on offer, and you can afford to do so, there’s no harm in stocking up or buying bigger bottles that will last you. But don’t panic buy and go into full on hoarder mode, as the impact is likely to be small and drawn-out in the majority of instances.
2. Shop British. More than ever our British brands need our support, so do your research into local companies and buy from the brands that develop and produce on UK shores – they may well seem a lot more affordable in comparison this time next year!
In all honesty, nobody knows what’s going to happen or the overall impact of Brexit on beauty – whether there’s a deal or not. There’s no doubt that there will be some impact on every kind of industry, but from a beauty perspective you’re not going to find an empty Boots store or products now filled with potentially harmful ingredients. Mostly I anticipate that things will stay the same, even if we do see some price rises and some stock replenishment issues, but this could also be a good thing; forcing us to look outside of our normal portfolio, try new things and discover home grown talent is always a fab idea in my book.
Who knows, Brexit could be the making of the British beauty industry!