As we edge closer to the general election on 8 June, this week we speak to fashion retailers of all sizes to find out their views on the party manifestos.
Prime minister Theresa May’s “clarification” earlier this week on the Conservative party’s proposals to make people pay more of the costs of social care for the elderly caused a stir, but her party still appears to be on course for a win. Politics aside, the continuity would be welcome: a change of guard at this stage would rock consumer confidence even further.
Of concern, however, is the apparent lack of understanding of the challenges facing British businesses today demonstrated across the manifestos. To name just two, Labour’s higher taxes would put a worrying squeeze on consumers’ spending, while the Tories’ proposals to reduce immigration and introduce punitive measures for firms employing non-European Union workers would hit the fashion industry hard. A high proportion of those employed in warehouses or working in UK manufacturing, for example, are from overseas.
The industry needs clarity on four key Brexit issues
Inevitably, for most business leaders the outcome of the election is inextricably linked with Brexit. What we discovered in our nationwide survey back in October still stands: the industry needs clarity on four key Brexit issues – trade agreements, free movement of people, funding for education, and intellectual property and design rights. Whichever party wins on 8 June, what we’ve heard during the campaigning so far has provided little reassurance that we will get the best outcome from Brexit.
Clearly, there is still a lot of lobbying work to be done. But there are potential opportunities for those willing to find them – the UK Fashion & Textiles Association (UKFT) has announced plans to create a fashion manufacturing hub in London. UKFT chairman Nigel Lugg told Drapers the project is in its early days, but that “there is a need for manufacturing to come back”.
Finally, as I write this column, the terrible news has just come in of the horrific attack in Manchester. My thoughts go out to all of those directly affected, as well as to our many friends and industry contacts based in the area.