Business as usual for Harrogate shops despite Brexit slump fears

Peter Jesper
Peter Jesper

Business rates, footfall and Internet shopping are the biggest challenges facing Harrogate’s high street rather than a ‘post-Brexit slump’, according to an independent retailer.

Peter Jesper, of Jespers of Harrogate, said that it was still “business as usual” for shops across the district following June’s referendum vote.

Mr Jesper, who also sits on the Harrogate Chamber of Commerce board, added that the shop had enjoyed a successful July period thanks to the warmer weather.

Britain’s retailers also enjoyed a more profitable July than during the same period last year, with total sales increasing by 1.9 per cent.

However, Mr Jesper said the positive performance of retailers since the referendum had little to do with them defying predictions of difficult post-Brexit conditions.

He said: “I think that Brexit has gone to the back of people’s minds a little bit. Sales were strong in July and have started off well in August.

“But, that’s because August is the back to school period and we’ve enjoyed a relatively sunnier last few weeks.

“We’ve not even discussed the Brexit issue here as any problems that the high street has are more localised and regionalised than any European effect.

“The pressures that independent retailers feel are the same as they ever were and I don’t think Brexit is a factor in the short term.”

The sales increase reported in a the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG’s latest survey was not surprising according to the BRC’s chief executive.

Helen Dickinson argued that “little has materially changed” for most UK households since the EU referendum, despite Barclaycard finding that growth in spending overall had slowed.

Mr Jesper said that businesses in Harrogate had been carrying on as normal since the vote, but stressed that independents still faced daily challenges to survive.

He said: “The footfall, internet shopping and business rates are still causing problems for businesses in Harrogate and across the country.

“Brexit is still a little bit further down the list. Harrogate is an affluent area place but underneath the surface it’s still very hard work for independents.

“In the future, Brexit might have some more bearing on the national economic picture but it’s too early to tell.”