Brighton shopkeeper blames Brexit as she closes after 22 years

Posted On 08 Sep 2016 at 5:10 pm
By Claire Jacobs

A Brighton shopkeeper claims Brexit has contributed to the demise of her business after 22 years of trading.

Emma Plus, a designer clothes store for plus-size women, opened its doors in Church Street in 1994.

Shop owner Emma Hayes said: “We have found it rather difficult in recent years to trade to the level that we would like. The internet, costly parking (and) the general decline of the high street have all told on us.

“Also, I do believe that there has been a recession for parts of the economy which began in the crash and has never really gone away.

“The thing that actually finished us off once and for all, though, was Brexit. From the moment the referendum campaign started, we found our customers were extremely anxious and were cutting back drastically on their spending.

“I don’t know whether it was just the particular profile of our customers or whether it’s retail generally. I think that very few of my customers voted for Brexit and many are very angry at the result.

“In the past few months we have been facing days when no one whatsoever has even been walking through our door. This means that my company is not trading solvently.”


The store has also had problems with suppliers recently, with all of their clothing coming from Europe.

Ms Hayes said: “I had to think about whether I could, in all good conscience, agree to have £40,000 of new autumn stock sent into this shop when there appears to be no reason to think that we have the trade to finance the payment of that stock.

“I wouldn’t like to encumber other businesses with debt on our behalf.”

Despite making less profit this year than usual, Ms Hayes had planned to keep the shop open as she believed that things would improve with increased footfall from John Lewis.

The popular department store has bought the Boots site just round the corner in Queen’s Road, on the corner of North Street, opposite the Clock Tower.

She said: “I had to think about my (and my suppliers’) liabilities and consider if it were ethical to continue.

“I have loved working here. It has been amazing and I have been so lucky. I’ve loved my working life, which is something that not everyone can say.”

The shop is holding a closing down sale which is due to end on Thursday 22 September.

Claire Jacobs writes the blog Confessions of a Single Parent Pessimist.

  1. Rolivan Reply

    Perhaps lots of people have lost weight due to not being able to afford to eat,well it is a nice thought.

  2. Ken Butcher Reply

    “Something bad happened. It must be because of Brexit”.

    Well, I suppose it was just too ridiculous to go with the usual “Something bad happened. Putin must have done it!”

  3. David Ross Reply

    What a very simplistic view this particular trader holds.
    I guess a bad workman has two choices for blame now. Tools or Brexit.

    • Nicola Reply


      I have been a loyal customer of this shop for 20 years. Whatever, caused them to cease trading, they were an exceptional business and provided the highest level of shopping experience to their customer base. I am sure that a general move to online shopping was also a contributory factor but when the pound falls over 11% against the Euro in a matter of days and where the vast majority of your stock is purchased in this currency, it can have a massive effect (particularly for small businesses) on your cost base, profit margins and cash flow.

  4. Alice Burtenshaw Reply

    Lived in brighton 29 years and never heard of this shop …must be brexit

  5. gumbo Reply

    yeah brexits fault lol

  6. Wayne Reply

    Why blame brexit most prob would have still closed down if it was remain. People need to stop blaming brexit

  7. Jo Reply

    I’ve lived in Brighton for 20 years and never seen or heard of this shop!

  8. Neil Reply

    Yeah !!! Brexit!!! It’s all those bigoted , white van driving xenophobes that killed it … lol

  9. Anonymous Reply

    This shopowner’s points have been misrepresented in the article. The lady says that her business was failing already. The initial ‘kneejerk’ reaction to Brexit was the clinch that was the final nail in the coffin. To imply, as the headline does, that Brexit reflects a failure, brought about by Brexit, is misleading. The article is nothing more than a reflection on an aspiring journalist’s wish to provoke reaction. Cheap shot, really.

  10. Paul Reply

    Woolworths have just blamed brexit for their down fall so have littlwoods it’s never to late to lay the blame somewhere else

  11. Stall69 Reply

    Just to buck the trend of facetious comments, the shop owner clearly stated it was a multitude of components (including Brexit) that ultimately caused her to close her shop and I have to agree with her on all counts.
    As a retailer, I know for a fact that even something like a World Cup can effect people’s shopping habits.
    So it doesn’t seem that irrational to me that when 17 million express their feelings of marginalisation by voting to leave and then the other 16 million are upset by it, that a total of over 30 million dissatisfied people won’t have some negative impact on the economy.

    I have been a High Street retail since I was 18. I’m now 55. I have never known trade to be as difficult as it has been this last year.
    This feeling has been stated by sole traders to large multiples across the entire country.
    The recent changes in the way people shop are beyond the control of a shop owner.
    Its a case of playing catch up because these changes are so rapid and unanticipated.

    Basic High Streets are dying out.
    Brighton has been fortunate in being a little late to this ‘party’ because its not just a shopping centre, its also a destination in its own right.
    However, what has been happening to other parts of the country for some time now is beginning to hit Brighton.
    Go on any local commercial estate agent’s website and see how many shops are looking to dispose of their leases.
    Ask yourself how much more time you spend browsing online than you do browsing in shops?

    The difficulty and punitive cost of parking isn’t making Brighton a desirable place to visit and bussing people in from outside the City has changed who comes into the city, what they purchase and what they’re prepared to carry back on public transport.
    The reality is that whilst spending has declined in general, retail parks have suffered far less than high streets and especially high streets where cars are being deterred from entering.

    So its great that B&HCC are making record revenues through parking charges and fees, this will ultimately be a short term gain when they lose business rates from abandoned retail shops.
    How many more cafe’s can one city sustain?

    I can’t help feeling the phrase “blame Brexit” was the words of the reporter rather than the shop owner.
    I don’t think she was ‘blaming’ anything.
    She was just stating the realities shop keepers have been facing.

  12. Gerry Hussein Reply

    A cursory glance at this business’s website and online profile including a seeming lack of social media presence leads me to be believe there may be some other factors involved too… namely IMO, they failed to adapt to make the most of modern marketing (digital) methods to get their business found and noticed.

    Shame as there is still a place on the High Street for niche retailers with a great selection of products, knowledgeable and expertise led face-to-face customer service. Service led businesses contribute both socially and economically in their areas.

    There are however no excuses for not being found by your potential customers these days, word-of-mouth recommendations alone and passing footfall just won’t be enough to run a successful business!

    If a business owner does not have the time or inclination to acquire digital marketing skills, they should get expert help!

    • Neil Reply

      Gerry, I’ve just looked this company up too and she has over 5000 followers on Twitter, a good Facebook presence and even in the USA on the shoptiques website, oh and I forgot Instagram and LinkedIn where the top retailers CEO’s hang on her word and ask her to consult for them.
      I wonder how you get on with social media Gerry? A couple of followers perhaps?
      You obviously know nothing about the reasons plus size fashion at a designer level struggles to be sold online successfully with 75% returns.
      You may have some ‘experience’ in some form of marketing son but it sure ‘ain’t digital!
      I personally agree with brexit and my digital business had its busiest day the day after.
      I think we should worry more about the fact that half of all retail customers believe in aliens, fairies, god and cosmic ordering, and that too many one man band digital marketing companies talk out their arse.
      Tried to find you on Twitter but not enough followers….
      Touting for business perhaps

  13. Annette Byczkowska Reply

    Lots of chain stores these days have normalised being larger sized or petite. I imagine you were a niche market yesteryear and now bigger sizes – up and along are par for the course.
    No doubt we’ll get another coffee shop anyway.

  14. Lille Dee Reply

    I was in there a few weeks ago and have to say I was very disappointed with their stock. None of the well-known makes e.g. Oska; Masai, Flax…and most items were in man-made fabrics.
    It’s certainly lost its appeal, for me.

    • Neil Reply

      That’s because they don’t go up to size 34 where the bread and butter size of that store

  15. Tracey Reply

    Rubbish! Not brexit at all. Nothing has even changed and we have not entered into the process of leaving yet! It’s just the shopkeeper failed to move with the times eg internet selling and where is the shop? Lived in Brighton for 45 years and have never seen this shop! Try advertising!

    • Neil Reply

      They have spent more on advertising than you probably have on cars
      Check you facts before leaving silly comments

  16. Carol Blackman Reply

    I never knew this shop was here I’ve been in plus size clothes for many years due to health conditions & I only knew of Evans & Ann Harvey which both have also sadly closed their doors a few years ago. If I’d known about the shop I certainly would have paid you a visit.
    Sadly after a operation went wrong 3yrs ago leaving me basically bedbound I’ve not been out shopping.?

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