‘If Brexit works out positively, other countries may wish to follow’
Brexit Proof Q&A: Mullan Lighting, Monaghan
Managing director Mike Treanor last week announced plans to expand Mullan Lighting.
Mullan Lighting was established 10 years ago as a one-man operation in an abandoned mill in Mullan village, Co Monaghan, close to the Border. The company has become renowned for a very high standard of design and for the quality of its lighting, handmade on site. Mullan Lighting creates custom-made lighting for the commercial, retail, hospitality and private sectors, selling to more than 55 countries worldwide and employing 65 people. Managing director Mike Treanor last week announced plans to expand.
What was your reaction when you heard the UK had voted to leave the EU?
Like a lot of people, I was surprised. My feeling was that what the population of the United Kingdom had voted on was very vague and non-specific in terms of how leaving the European Union would play out in practical terms. The ambiguity around the original referendum question would make a complicated process very hard to resolve.
How is your business likely to be affected?
Depending on how Brexit eventually unfolds, potential customs delays are our biggest worry. As a decorative lighting manufacturer operating in a mostly project-based environment, delivering our products to site on time is crucial. Customs clearance delays would be problematic and something that would be out of our control to a degree. If our delivery times become unpredictable, this would affect our reliability and lead to poor customer satisfaction. A slowdown in the United Kingdom, or indeed the European economy, as a result of Brexit is another major concern. Currency fluctuations could also make the market very unpredictable.
How much do you rely on raw materials or markets north of the Border? And how much on Britain?
We do have some suppliers in the United Kingdom – some north of the Border but most within Britain. We have taken steps to identify alternative suppliers elsewhere in Europe in case those in the United Kingdom become unreliable in terms of lead times or too expensive post-Brexit. The added concern is that by sourcing more from European suppliers there is the potential for longer lead times on raw materials as shipping companies may avoid transporting through the United Kingdom to Ireland.
When did you begin preparing for Brexit and what contingency plans have you put in place so far?
We began preparing properly around two years ago. We have a premises situated in Northern Ireland but only a few kilometres from Mullan village where we manufacture all of our goods. There may be a possibility of moving part of the business to this location depending on what form of Brexit occurs.
Are you examining new markets/suppliers and, if so, how practical is that?
Over the past two years, we have attended additional design trade shows in France, Germany, Italy and Sweden. This is not specifically because of Brexit, but as part of our ongoing efforts to increase market share across Europe, and, as a result, naturally decrease the company’s reliance on the British market. This has proved very fruitful so far and has helped ease our fears on the effect that Brexit might have on our business as a whole.
When do you expect to be Brexit-ready?
We are as ready as we can be. At this stage it’s just a case of waiting to see what happens next. Brexit is largely out of our control. When something is out of your control, it’s not worth worrying about. Instead we focus on the things that we can control, like improving our manufacturing processes and manufacturing times to help mitigate any potential customs delays coming down the line. When the situation becomes clearer, we will likely have to make further decisions. Business is naturally challenging and it’s just another challenge that we’re prepared to face.
Are you stockpiling goods/raw materials?
We have identified alternative sources for our supply of materials elsewhere in Europe and have therefore not felt the need to stockpile. We have very limited space for storage in our existing premises too. We’ve recently announced plans to double our storage and manufacturing capabilities in 2020 with an extension to the rear of our current premises.
How might the Irish or British governments, or the EU, help ease the pain of Brexit for your company or sector?
We would hope that, in whatever form Brexit takes, the British government and the EU would move quickly to establish a free-trade deal to minimise the negative impact that Brexit will certainly bring.
Looking out five years, how do you think your business or industry will have changed as a result of Brexit?
The European Union will have to consider how they treat every member state as a result of Brexit. In time, if Brexit eventually works out positively for the United Kingdom, other countries may wish to follow unless the EU makes changes to how it operates, especially around equality to all member states.