“Brexit is the problem”: Report shows losses and skill shortages for UK beauty industry

By Kirsty Doolan

- Last updated on GMT

The UK government is highlighting jobs in the beauty industry (Image: Getty)
The UK government is highlighting jobs in the beauty industry (Image: Getty)

Related tags Business Uk Brexit British Beauty Council Government Cosmetics European union

According to an Oxford Economics study commissioned by the British Beauty Council, the British beauty industry has lost around £850m in exports to EU countries since Brexit.

Despite steady sales in the rest of the world, the report stated that there was a notable decline in exports to EU countries after 2016.

Prior to this – between 2010 and 2016 – exports of UK beauty and personal care products to EU countries had risen.  

The sector had been subject to increased ‘red tape’ costs and customs issues since Britain left the EU and small beauty firms have been disproportionately affected by the barriers and changes to the rules.  

CEO of the British Beauty Council, Millie Kendall OBE, told Bloomberg​ news in an interview: “Covid is not the problem – Brexit is the problem. People have pulled out of territories.”

The UK beauty industry body shared the report during British Beauty Week (26th​ – 30th​ October) as it also revealed that Kate Moss will be its new global ambassador.

SME manufacturers are most badly affected

Meanwhile a British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) report ​was released last week showing that almost half of UK exporters are struggling with the changes needed to continue exporting under the UK-EU trade deal.

The Trade Confidence Outlook, which is conducted by the BCC’s Insights Unit, surveyed over 2,000 UK small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) exporters and revealed that exports have continued to weaken for many of these companies.

The number of SMEs reporting decreased sales is now 10% higher than in 2017/18.

The most badly affected are SME manufacturers: with 28% reporting a decrease in exports, 27% an increase, and 45% no change. This compares to SME services exporters, with 23% seeing a decrease, 26% an increase and 51% remained constant.

BCC’s Head of Trade Policy, William Bain, said: “The reality is if UK business is to thrive, then we must export more, it’s as simple as that. If we want to remain one of the world’s largest economies, then we need more firms selling goods and services internationally. But the pandemic, supply chain disruption, Brexit, non-tariff trade barriers and global headwinds have all made this more difficult over the past few years. 

He continued: “We need to look again at ways of improving trade with the EU. It is still our biggest trading partner, but firms continue to express huge frustration with the complexity and costs involved – which go beyond what they face elsewhere.” 

Government urging jobseekers to “consider a role in beauty”

The research from the British Beauty Council also discovered that there is a skills shortage in the industry due to a decline in EU workers.

To address this issue, the UK Government’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)​ is now calling on jobseekers to consider a role in beauty as their next move.

There are over 4,000 vacancies live on the Government’s Find a Job portal including beautician, merchandiser and lecturer roles.

Diane Whitbread, one of the DWP’s Employer Engagement Advisors, said: “This booming sector offers a range of exciting roles and skills development along with progression opportunities and a new sense of purpose.”

The Government works closely with the British Beauty Council to drive excellence across the industry. On this topic, CEO Kendall said:

“The British Beauty industry makes a bigger contribution to the UK’s GDP than the creative, arts, and entertainment sector, and the aerospace manufacturing sector, however many people are unaware of the diverse range of opportunities available in the sector.

“In order to highlight the diverse opportunities available in the sector, the Council has launched its ‘Future Talent Programme’, which is designed to uncover unique roles in technology, fragrance, sustainability, and cosmetic science to people aged 11-18 years old. Through engaging short films, the programme is dedicated to ensuring a pipeline of unique talent to a creative, innovative, entrepreneurial sector.”

According to the British Beauty Council, the industry supports 550,00 total jobs across media, services, STEM roles and more.

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