Strength of 'brand Britain' important post-Brexit, says Cath Kidston boss

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The chief executive of Cath Kidston has said it is essential for "brand Britain" that businesses continue to have access to key markets and fresh talent and that the rights of EU nationals are protected following Brexit.

Kenny Wilson told the Press Association that the "strength of brand Britain" is tied up in a view of the country as "open minded".

He said: "The strength of brand Britain is really important to us, and I would like to see access to countries from a trading perspective, whether that's the EU or otherwise.

"We have a lot of EU colleagues and I want to make sure those people are protected, are able to stay here and flourish and help us grow. And I want to make sure there is still a fresh supply of talent open to this country."

The clothing and homewares retailer employs more than 1,400 people and Mr Wilson's comments come as Theresa May faces down Cabinet colleagues who want the Prime Minister to abandon her pledge to limit net migration to the tens of thousands.

But Mr Wilson added that Cath Kidston's popularity in Asia, and brand Britain generally, has not been tarnished as a result of the Brexit vote.

"People don't believe that because of Brexit the country is now an inward-looking and backward place. I believe this is an open-minded country, whatever policies the government ends up with.

"The reason Cath Kidston has been successful is because of Britishness. People have a view of Britain as an open-minded country, as a creative country, where there's good education."

Mr Wilson said the chain, which has 77 stores in Britain, has seen a steep rise in tourist spending since the Brexit vote, with the collapse in sterling boosting overseas purchasing power.

Visitors from Japan, China and the US have been driving a sales boom in tourist locations such as London, Oxford and Edinburgh.

"Our sales are up in the UK generally, but the tourist stores are growing faster than the average, that suggests the effect of the weaker pound," he said.

The retailer has also been helped by a last-minute decision by its finance chief on June 23, the day before the vote result, to hedge against currency fluctuations until the end of March this year.

This meant that Cath Kidston was better protected from the pound's 20% plummet against the dollar following the shock result.

However, it has not been immune to the sharp rise in costs that have plagued British businesses as a result of sterling's decline, and Mr Wilson said that any positive sales gain from tourists has been "neutralised" by soaring inflation.

Nevertheless, the chief executive expects revenues and earnings to rise in the year to March, helped by its expanding presence in Asia.

 Last year the firm reported underlying earnings of £7.4 million on revenues of around £135 million.

Private equity firm Baring Asia last year took full control of the retailer, which was founded in 1993 by Cath Kidston herself.

Baring's knowledge of the Asian market has been pivotal in helping grow the brand in the region, where the company has 140 stores.

Mr Wilson said the next stop for Cath Kidston is Latin America, with a launch slated for later in 2017.