Understandably, lots of customers have been asking us what our plans are for Brexit. The UK Government has also sent us a nice letter encouraging us to prepare for a no-deal Brexit.
Hilarious, aren't they?
Sorry if this sounds political but it's pretty much impossible to be non-political about Brexit. Quite honestly, how on Earth does the UK Government expect businesses to prepare for something that they themselves (with all their vast resources, government departments and the civil service behind them) cannot sort out? There are so many possible permutations of what may or may not happen over various ever-changing timescales, that businesses have no real prospect of making meaningful preparations
Everyone has their own view on Brexit as a concept and we're not commenting on the referendum result itself, but the UK Government is asking us to prepare for multiple unknown outcomes that we have no control over - it's simply not possible, let alone reasonable. In fact, we'd go as far as saying that those companies who claim they are fully prepared are more likely to be simply trying to look good to their shareholders and the general public by putting a positive spin on things. Smoke and mirrors
Are we fully prepared?
Have we any plans in place?
The cake decorating world relies on a dazzlingly intricate network of international supply
International brands are the obvious starting point: Agbay, Wilton, Satin Ice, Marvelous Molds, Ateco, Evil Cake Genius, Mosser Glass, Autumn Carpenter, Nielsen Massey etc from the USA; Faye Cahill and Chocolate Drip from Australia; Massa Ticino from Switzerland; Alphabet Moulds from Austria; Saracino from Italy and loads more
Then there are all the products that are manufactured outside the UK but are not really recognised as being international brands - there are probably thousands of products like this that we're not always aware of. Examples include PME cutters made in China, Bullyland cake toppers made in Germany and Covapaste icing made in Belgium and owned by German company Südzucker
Then there are all the ingredients and raw materials that are supplied from outside the UK. The special foil paper for covering cake boards, for example, is manufactured in Germany and the sugar we use for Couture sugarpaste alone is sourced from all these countries . . . Angola, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Benin, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, France, Guadeloupe, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kenya, Laos, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Nepal, Nicaragua, Panama, Reunion, Suriname, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and the UK
It's an incredibly complicated and delicately balanced network that has taken decades to establish. Our fear is that when the UK leaves the EU this network will be put under enormous strain. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, this same network is more likely to come crashing down around us. Supplies will be limited, prices will increase, choice will diminish. Of course, some take the view that we can all simply 'buy British' and things will be just fine - but at the moment, that seems little more than a jingoistic soundbite. For those of us in the cake decorating world, is that really a viable solution? We think not
So what can we, Cake Stuff, do?
We've stockpiled as many ingredients and products as we can. We're limited to some extent by space, money and the fact that all edible products have a BBE date. Even so, both our warehouses are bulging with stock and we're trying to get extra shipments of products from other European countries before the end of the month. The scary truth is that we could fill 10 warehouses with Massa Ticino, Saracino and whatever else and we would still run out at some point
Every key manufacturer we've spoken to is in the same position, with many acquiring additional warehouse space to try and ensure supply for at least a little while
The single biggest issue for Cake Stuff will be shipping orders to customers outside the UK following a no-deal Brexit. Every order will have to be shipped with additional documentation and will have to clear customs in every country it passes through. Courier companies are warning of massive backlogs and delays due to this, as well as increased delivery costs
At the present time, our plan is that we will suspend all non-UK deliveries should there be a no-deal Brexit. We feel there is no point in simply adding to the existing backlog of undelivered parcels that will inevitably arrive very late and let our European customers down. We will monitor the situation and once the courier companies report that things seem to be moving again, we will revise our European delivery timescale and charges in order to commence deliveries again
For customers in Eire, we're sad to say this applies to you as well although we are happy to deliver to Northern Ireland if you can make your own arrangements for forward shipping. Once the Irish Border question is answered by the politicians, we may be able to deliver direct to Eire again. Fingers crossed!
UPDATE 11th April 2019 . . .
an agreement has been reached to delay Brexit until 31st October (Happy Hallowe'en!) unless the UK Parliament finds a solution before that date. We're therefore not facing and immediate panic of a no-deal Brexit and we're happy to be able to continue shipping orders outside the UK in the interim
what happens next?
Following Brexit, price increases are inevitable as demand outstrips supply. We expect the cost of raw materials like sugar to increase and for those increases to filter right through on thousands of different products. Before any of this even happens, we're happy to go on record and state that we will absorb as many increases as we can and minimise any price increases we are forced to pass on to our customers
We'll keep everyone updated as-and-when there are developments regarding European deliveries. Meantime, there is very little else we can do or say other than continue to stockpile whatever we can and trust that the Westminster Parliament gets itself sorted out to help the country through this challenging transition
It's going to be difficult and it's going to be painful, the economy will be damaged and some businesses won't survive. It's not at all a funny situation but we're trying hard to look on the bright side - that's why we liked the photo on the left so much
All we can say is that we'll see you on the other side!
UPDATE 11th April 2019 . . . an agreement has been reached to delay Brexit until 31st October (Happy Hallowe'en!) unless the UK Parliament finds a solution before that date. We're therefore not facing and immediate panic of a no-deal Brexit and we're happy to be able to continue shipping orders outside the UK in the interim