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Brexit is proving to be both a blessing and a curse for one Colchester company

PUBLISHED: 14:10 12 June 2018 | UPDATED: 15:38 12 June 2018

Mark Lister of Ribbon and Label Supplies based in Colchester 
Picture: Mark Lister

Mark Lister of Ribbon and Label Supplies based in Colchester Picture: Mark Lister

Archant

When Mark Lister decided take the plunge and set up his company Ribbon and Label Supplies seven years ago, he could never have anticipated the impact – good and bad – that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union would have on his business.

When Mark Lister decided take the plunge and set up his company Ribbon and Label Supplies seven years ago, he could never have anticipated the impact – good and bad – that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union would have on his business.

The effect of Brexit to the UK’s economy is already materialising according to new research, The EY Attractiveness Report, which noted a “marked increase” of 35% in the total number of outbound investments to 464 compared to last year – reflecting UK businesses making investments abroad.

But while headlines can at times paint a picture of doom and gloom, for Mr Lister, Brexit has provided some unexpected new opportunities.

Mr Lister used to be the UK sales manager for Sentega Labels, an offshoot of Avery Dennison, which at one time was the largest manufacturer of labels in the world.

When he joined the company in 2009, the company employed 16 members of staff in the UK, but it has since moved production back to the continent and, while still serving the UK, no longer has regular staff in the country.

Telrol’s departure has created opportunities for Mr Lister to grow his own company, as he is now actively marketing his products to Telrol’s former UK-based clients.

“I’ve been dropping these companies notes saying ‘we can make these items, please give us a call’,” he explained.

The example offers hope for other home-grown businesses to step into any gaps left by departing multinationals, particularly as a result of Brexit.

Ribbon Label and Supplies currently has an annual turnover of £360,000, and has grown year on year, currently employing three employees from offices at Colchester Business Centre in George Williams Way.

But Brexit hasn’t proven to be all good news for Mr Lister, who claims that the cost of material in his industry has gone up by 25% since Brexit.

“Prices had held steady for about seven years, and then shot up within a week of Brexit being announced,” he said. “Eighteen months ago a label printer manufactured by an American company in China cost £480, and now it’s £620. It’s now cheaper for me to buy a printer in from Germany than in York. In the supply chain, the UK company is getting the worst deal. I want to buy locally, but in this business, I can’t.”

Mr Lister blames price increases not only on the weak pound and Brexit opportunism, but also on the buoyant need for self adhesive labels in the UK.

“There are more and more regulations requiring items to be labelled clearly, and people need bigger labels,” he said.

“Manufacturers now have to label pre-made food not only for food description, but also the traffic light labels (showing nutritional value) and information about allergens. So my business is winning on that score.”

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