Pure Beauty

Brexit cut UK’s beauty exports by £850 million

By Alessandro Carrara | Published: 30-Oct-2023

Increased trade barriers and a shortage of skills from EU workers have been cited as contributors to the market’s value decline

Brexit has resulted in a £850m decrease in the export value of the UK’s beauty market, according to industry research.

The British Beauty Council’s 2023 Value of Beauty report claimed this was largely the result of increased bureaucracy and trade barriers stifling sales since Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.

A survey by the British Chambers of Commerce found that 49% of UK exporters have reported difficulties in adapting to the changes required to trade goods.

A shortage of skills from EU workers was also cited as another contributor to the value decline.

Analysis from Oxford Economics, which was commissioned to write the report, found that the beauty industry is more reliant on exports to the European single market.

Some 66.5% of exported personal care products are bought by the European single market, which is higher than the average of 51.5% across all UK goods exports.

Between 2010 and 2016, UK exports of beauty products were increasing at  average annual rates of 3.1% and 5.3% respectively.

However, the report found that exports of personal care products from the UK to the European single market have been in decline since 2018.

“While difficult to isolate the specific impact of Brexit from other issues over this period such as the Covid-19 pandemic, this divergence does suggest that Brexit may have led to a weaker export performance for personal care manufacturers,” the British Beauty Council said in a statement. 

The trade disruptions have also particularly affected small businesses, of which the beauty sector is most mostly composed of in the UK.

The British Beauty Council said this is due to rising costs and increased bureaucracy, which smaller businesses did not have the time or money to deal with.

Other factors included a new value added tax on goods imported from the EU, and businesses no longer having access to the European Investment Fund (EIF).

“The trade barriers that arise from increased costs and complexity of trading with Europe since Brexit have created obstacles to growth of the personal care industry,” the British Beauty Council added.

“As an industry with a high representation of SMEs, the personal care industry is likely greatly affected by the impacts of Brexit in increasing the costs and complexity of dealing with Europe.”

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