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Could a no-deal Brexit ruin Christmas?

PUBLISHED: 09:18 19 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:18 19 September 2019

Jarrold has already begun their Christmas preparations. Picture: Andrew Hawkins

Jarrold has already begun their Christmas preparations. Picture: Andrew Hawkins

(c) copyright citizenside.com

Firms in East Anglia which rely heavily on a bumper festive season are terrified a no-deal Brexit will silence the jingle of tills this Christmas.

The annual TW Gaze turkey and poultry auction 2016 in Diss.
Judge Chris Mobbs with the best in show turkey from Pond Farm Thrandeston
Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2016The annual TW Gaze turkey and poultry auction 2016 in Diss. Judge Chris Mobbs with the best in show turkey from Pond Farm Thrandeston Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2016

Already companies are busily preparing for December 25 - and for some businesses Christmas sales can be the difference between success and ruin.

And with Brexit negotiations still paralysed there are growing fears Christmas 2019 could prove to be a huge disappointment.

But as the uncertainty continues bosses are left with no choice and planning for the big day - Christmas rather than Brexit - is well under way.

Norwich department store Jarrold has been planning the festive period since February.

Trevor Oram checks the growth of his seven-year-old Nordman Fir Christmas trees at his farm in Wrentham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYTrevor Oram checks the growth of his seven-year-old Nordman Fir Christmas trees at his farm in Wrentham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

And it's the job of department store's visual merchandising manager Jane Evans to make sure the city centre shop looks the part.

She said: "We start our Christmas prep in February when we go to the Christmas shows. We then come up with ideas for Jarrold Christmas based around what our buyers have bought for our Christmas Shop and the trends we have seen at the shows. By March we have come up with our concept and work begins on creating props for windows and in store."

Bosses at the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA), based in Ipswich, are also upbeat heading into the festive period.

Harry Brightwell, secretary of the BCTGA, said: "Between six and eight million trees are sold in the UK each year and estimates are that 75% are British grown.

The warehouse at Orchard Toys at Wymondham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe warehouse at Orchard Toys at Wymondham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

"This year has seen optimal growing conditions and the trees are looking good which means buyers will have an excellent selection to choose from. We expect prices to be similar to last year."

Of course, it wouldn't be Christmas without an East Anglian turkey on the table.

And Chris Mobbs, who rears free-range turkeys at his farm in Cratfield in north Suffolk, is already half-way through the run up to the big day.

"At the moment, the turkeys look like gawky teenagers. We rear around 4,000 turkeys each year and the day old chicks arrive from the hatcheries in June," he said.

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From then on our work involves feeding them up, letting them out of doors and taking general care of them. We also run a small arable farm, as well as rear some guinea fowl - we are a small business really."

The birds are fed barley and oats which are all grown on the farm.

But despite fears over egg supply and feed being abated, Mr Mobbs could still face issues around labour.

He said: "We are reliant on labour from eastern Europe and this year we have ten people from Latvia coming over in the run up to Christmas."

In the event of a no-deal Brexit in October, movement of EU workers could be significantly restricted.

"There are concerns that if the freedom of movement is tightened that a lot farming businesses will be in a muddle but like everyone else we don't what's happening as yet," he added.

"We've been told that because our labour only comes for two to three weeks of the year that rather like farms that hire harvest workers we should be OK."

Wymondham's Orchard Toys has already protected themselves from any no-deal fallout.

The retailer is lucky in that it manufacturers its products in the UK so will avoid any potential delays to supply.

Ali Brown, marketing manager, said: "A high proportion of our business in Q4 is domestic - the impact on us is minimised comparative to many other toy companies that manufacture overseas."

Those products that they do export are already on their way to customers.

He added: "As we already operate internationally, if Brexit goes ahead, we will adopt our WTO terms to continue trading with European markets. If Brexit doesn't happen we will continue to operate within current EU terms."

Trevor Oram is another business owner who won't be impacted by Brexit - however would still like to have some answers.

Mr Oram, who runs Wrentham Christmas Trees near Beccles, said: "Brexit won't make any difference to us - we are selling directly to people and dealing with a happy time of year. I'd just like it see it sorted. I think I'm like most people, fed up with it."

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