Here's a Sign that Global Trade Tensions Haven’t Taken a Bite out of Sales

UK ecommerce retailers say international sales haven’t been hurt by Brexit worries

Author: Ben Clague

March 2, 2017

Uncertainty tied to the prospect of the UK’s exit from the European Union doesn’t seem to have affected cross-border ecommerce sales in the UK.

In a survey of UK retailers, nearly half said that last year’s Brexit vote hasn’t had much of an impact on cross-border sales yet. In fact, about a third said international sales were actually higher since the vote.

The survey, part of a February 2017 report from Global-e conducted by Censuswide, found that only 20% of respondents said that international ecommerce sales were off at least a bit since Brexit.

The data is a relatively small sample, but the results are somewhat counterintuitive, given that an exit from the European Union would presumably create some level of complication for cross-border commerce. That said, data released earlier this year indicated healthy cross-border sales. Those gains were driven in part by the declining value of the pound—ironically, an effect of the Brexit vote.

The report comes at a time of heightened tension over global trade patterns in the UK and the US, and indeed around the world.

In the US, the retail sector’s anxiety has focused on the possibility of increased taxes on foreign goods imported for sale in the US. Cross-border ecommerce is less of a hot-button topic, in part because the sheer size of the US market means many goods are imported for sale by retailers, lessening the need to shop outside the border.

US shoppers are considerably less likely than those in other countries to make cross-border ecommerce purchases, according to data from the UK’s Office of Communications (Ofcom). An October 2016 survey found that just half of those surveyed in the US had made a cross-border digital purchase, the lowest level of any of the countries surveyed save for Japan.