It has been a mixed week for fashion and footwear retailers. As BHS starts to close its final stores, we have seen a number of expansion plans in the UK and further afield.
When the news about BHS’s collapse broke, optimists found a silver lining: the opportunity to breathe new life into high streets across the UK. However, so far most of the retailers circling the old BHS units are familiar names – Primark, Next, Sports Direct. While they may have a more appealing offer than BHS, they are already such well-known fixtures on the high street. Where are the new names, to break up the homogeneity? Let’s hope they are not being put off by uncertainty surrounding Brexit.
What is clear is that there needs to be more government support for smaller retailers to help them survive on today’s challenging high street. Initiatives such as the new Savethehighstreet.org are a good start, but rents and rates are still far too high.
One business that has shrugged off concerns about the potential risk of bricks-and-mortar retailing is Lavitta. The womenswear retailer, which launched online in March last year, is gearing up to open its tenth store.
Others are expanding, too. Joules will open its biggest store to date in Edinburgh later this month and River Island has opened a dedicated office for its digital staff in east London. These moves are a welcome sign that life will go on, regardless of what happens with the Brexit negotiations.
There are still many unanswered questions as to what Brexit might mean for UK fashion businesses. One thing retailers, brands and agents need to know is what trade agreements will be put in place with countries within the EU and further afield, especially as they expand overseas.
Another concern is the impact the ongoing uncertainty is having – and will have – on consumer confidence. Reassuringly, BRC-KPMG data shows consumer spend defied expectations and rose in July.
Although it is, of course, good news that consumers are still spending money, there is a lot of economic and political change ahead. With that in mind, Drapers has launched a nationwide survey to determine what the fashion industry needs from the Brexit negotiations to thrive outside the European Union. We’d love to hear your views.
The survey closes on 9 September and the results published a few weeks later. We will present the survey findings to government, to ensure the fashion industry’s views are heard at this crucial time in the UK’s history.