Small businesses are at risk of folding if they have no contingency plan for Britain leaving the European Union (EU) without an agreement on the free trade of goods, retailers have warned.

The comments came after the British Retail Consortium (BRC) told Bloomberg that Britain would lack the infrastructure to handle increased customs checks if it leaves the EU with no exit deal. 

Peter Lamb, of Lambs Larder in Tunbridge Wells, said he feared retailers would be hit by increased pricing. “Longer border checks alongside increased demand for domestic goods as a readily available alternative would give wholesalers and suppliers reason to increase prices.

“Our prices would have to increase and we’d lose customers,” said Mr Lamb. In planning for a worst-case scenario, Mr Lamb said his plan was to increase his food to go range from 50% to 75% because it is a category where shoppers are more willing to pay a premium. “Any retailer without a plan is crazy. The Brexit train is coming and they will get run over without one,” he said.   

Mo Razzaq, of Family Shopper in Blantyre, added: “The recent cigarette legislation and upcoming sugar levy certainly don’t help things. Those who don’t have a plan, or at least think of one, will end up folding.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman advised retailers to think of a backup, even with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit. “The result of a no-deal Brexit will impact supply chain and costs,” Mr Lowman told RN. “There’s still uncertainty, but it’s advisable for retailers to at least have a contingency if the worst happens.”

A government spokesperson added: “The government is working to build a deep and special partnership with the European Union that works for all parts of the country including our world-leading food and farming industry. 

“But it is the job of a responsible government to plan for all eventualities and we will work with businesses to prepare for such scenarios.”