Fabric business

West Pinchbeck woman Alice Grant forced to close her Cloth Spot fabric business after problems with Brexit and Covid restrictions

A business owner has been forced to say goodbye to her prized project after an avalanche of issues with Brexit and the pandemic.

Alice Grant (59) set up Cloth Spot 11 years ago, offering fashion fabrics and clothing via an online store.

Selling to customers in South Holland and customers in Scotland, Wales and other parts of Europe, business was booming and – at one point – Ms Grant employed four other members of staff .

Alice Grant hangs up the boots at Cloth Spot after 11 years

However, a cascade of problems over the past four years has led to an unsustainable future – and Cloth Spot has now officially sold the last of its stocks.

Ms Grant, from West Pinchbeck, said: ‘Whenever there’s uncertainty – so all these elections and referenda – whenever that happens it throws people off.

“As soon as Brexit happened, we lost about 15% of our business overnight because we’re selling in Europe and to customers in Europe.”

Alice Grant hangs up the boots at Cloth Spot after 11 years
Alice Grant hangs up the boots at Cloth Spot after 11 years

Leaving the European Union also created tax problems for the company. It was under the threshold for VAT registration and therefore included this charge in its prices – but this meant that European customers had to pay VAT twice.

“There was really no way around it – we just had to apologize, and there was a lot of uncertainty about shipping etc,” Ms Grant added.

Complications began to pile up after Covid-19 restrictions were introduced, with changing habits meaning people no longer needed new clothes to wear out.

Ms Grant said that even when the rules were relaxed it was then unlikely that people would sit around the house and sew, further hampering her business.

“We couldn’t just move on, we had to do our best with these things – and we did,” she said.

“Some online businesses have taken their toll, not us. We had very good months, but it was very unpredictable.

“At the end of this first year of confinement, we had done well and had invested some money – but we had not exceeded previous sales targets.

Further changes to Brexit rules have made it increasingly difficult to source high quality fabrics in Rome, Paris and Milan.

Cloth Spot was unable to provide the time and money to maintain a sustainable business model – and that was before the cost of living crisis hit.

The ‘layer upon layer’ of issues left Ms Grant with a bitter taste in her mouth.

She said: “Some things were unavoidable. But I think for very small businesses in particular, Brexit has been an absolute disaster. It’s something we couldn’t do anything about.

“It doesn’t make sense to us. It’s very, very frustrating and I’m angry that a lot of small businesses, not just mine, have been hampered by this.

However, she is very proud of what Cloth Spot has managed to accomplish in 11 years.

The staff got involved with social media early on and focused on taking high quality video for online customers who weren’t able to test the fabrics in person.

Ms Grant, who is now embarking on a new career as a swimming coach, added: ‘It’s been a real storm. I was really proud that we kinda set the standard.