By Ian McConnell

Business Editor

AN award-winning Scottish Champagne retailer, on the third anniversary of the UK’s departure from the European Union yesterday, declared it was “hard to overstate how challenging Brexit has proven”, citing increased costs, bureaucracy and supply-chain challenges.

Dundee-born Peter Crawford, who now lives in Balmerino in Fife, launched specialist online retailer Sip Champagnes with business partner Daniel Blatchford in 2020. The company sources and supplies small-batch, hand-crafted Champagne straight to consumers and the hospitality trade from France.

It noted that it has 60 Champagne producers and more than 236 individual cuvées from across 25 villages in its range, and only deals with ethically sourced and artisan products direct from the farmer.

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Sip Champagnes was recently named the UK’s “Champagne Retailer of the Year” by Decanter Magazine.

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Mr Blatchford said: “As a small start-up, it’s hard to overstate how challenging Brexit has proven to be. Our supply chain broke five times in our first year, largely as a result of partners in France withdrawing from the UK market due to costs and complications. Costs for every element from customs to transport to the products themselves continue to rise and it seems like not a month goes by when there is not a new layer of bureaucratic complexity to navigate. We had to rework and strengthen our logistics, relying on larger and more established logistics partners to ensure smoother flow of stock to the UK.”

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Mr Blatchford noted Sip Champagnes had also hedged its risks “against the instability in the UK market” by setting up a French subsidiary to allow it to ship directly from France to other territories, “cutting out the challenges and costs of UK customs”.

Asked about the future if things carry on as they are, he said: “In short, ever-fewer options and ever-higher prices for the UK consumer, as challenges and costs to import goods gradually become too great for businesses to bear. Among the many businesses that are struggling, we are actually fortunate that the UK market for Champagne is quite mature and that consumers of prestige products are generally less sensitive to price rises.”

On what changes he would like to see from government, he declared: “In general, just some vision and coordinated strategy. There are ever-more layers of seemingly arbitrary bureaucracy that block and slow the import chain, while adding needless costs along the way.”