The Consumer-Facing Brexit: What are we saying?

Every conversation we’re having at The MBS Group at the moment – be it with a client or a candidate – seems to focus on Brexit. The arguments are passionate; many of our clients stand to be significantly impacted both positively and negatively by the referendum on 23rd June, when the UK will vote on its future.

There are vocal proponents for both the ‘Leave’ and the ‘Remain’ camps across the consumer-facing sector. A letter written by Innocent Drinks founder Richard Reed arguing that an ‘economic shock’ would follow a Brexit was sent to The Times in February and signed by over 200 entrepreneurs, including Zoopla CEO Alex Chesterman, founder Martha Lane Fox and Yo! Sushi founder Simon Woodroffe.

A similar letter from the other camp remarked that independence from the EU would allow the UK to ‘regain control of [its] own laws and economy’, and was signed by a similar number of business leaders – including JD Wetherspoon founder Tim Martin and Patisserie Valerie chairman Luke Johnson.

However, several business leaders have chosen to remain impartial, including Dave Lewis of Tesco, who noted that it should be “a matter for the British people to decide.”

But with all of the personal opinions that have been made known, more unclear has been the broader thoughts of the consumer-facing industry at large, including the analysts and journalists upon whom we rely for general coverage across the sectors. With this in mind and with the help of media monitoring platform Signal, we set out to analyse the sentiment surrounding Brexit in industry media.

“By evaluating trends over long periods of time, we can observe sentiment shifts that simply wouldn’t be visible from a week’s worth of news” – David Benigson, Signal Media co-founder and CEO

Our research showed – with no surprise – that the term ‘Brexit’ has been a consistently popular trend across all trade media, increasingly so since the beginning of the year.

Most noticeably, the spike in volume in digital trade press after an otherwise uneventful several months corresponds with several key articles on the topic, including one from The Register on the Irish tech sector and one from Tech City News on UK startups. From travel and leisure press, the spike in mid-May corresponds to a number of key industry figures, including Tim Martin and Michael O’Leary, commenting on their respective positions.

What proved more interesting, however, was the data showing the sentiment in industry media with relation to the subject, which was measured as a ratio of positive to negative terms in articles about Brexit.


As seen above, although consumer industry press trended slightly more negatively in terms of sentiment towards Brexit, the distribution was fairly even until early May, when sentiments then declined across the board. Broadly speaking, the peaks and dips show what one might expect from such a big discussion: that sentiment is actually fairly evenly spread, with proponents and opponents of Brexit in all consumer-facing sectors.

Our sentiment here at The MBS Group is knowing that our clients have the right people with the right skills to navigate whatever the outcome of the referendum. While it may be that staying in the EU or leaving would benefit one sector in a different way or another, we’re interested to see how companies will handle the upcoming month of uncertainty – and perhaps beyond.

“Given its importance, I am keen to ensure that everyone in the business who wishes to exercise their right to vote will be able to do so. In some circumstances, we will  facilitate that for those who wish to place a vote at their local polling station” – Duncan Garrood, CEO, Punch Taverns

Noting the number of employees that work within our sector, especially in multi-site operational businesses, many CEOs have chosen to remind their employees of their right to vote, and to offer them flexible working on polling-day to enable them to vote.

Whatever your personal sentiment, I hope that you too will encourage your colleagues to enter into the discussion, and to have an opinion – either way – on Brexit. It it too critical an issue for consumer facing industries not to.