The retail industry has welcomed the “stability through continuity” that a Conservative party majority government could now bring.
Following yesterday’s vote, David Cameron will return to Downing Street as prime minister and Ed Miliband, Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage have all today stepped down from their respective parties. At the time of writing, the Conservatives had secured 327 seats against Labour’s 232 seats, giving them an unexpected majority.
Schuh managing director Colin Temple said: “Out of all the outcomes that could have happened, this [the Conservative majority] is probably the best one for business, with the continuity and stability it brings.”
The footwear retailer boss added: “You can’t get away from the issue with Scotland and we are an Edinburgh-based business so that will continue to unfold but I think this is an acceptable result for business and retail.”
Colin Henry, chief executive of premium womenswear retailer Jaeger, said he was pleased with the result, firstly in terms of improving consumer confidence.
“For our customer base there has definitely been a bit of angst about what is going to happen and I think that there will be a lot of Jaeger customers feeling very relieved now,” he said.
“From a company perspective what will be most interesting is the exchange rates and the pound surging against the dollar and the euro. Particularly with regards to the euro, it will mean we can buy more products closer to home which will be quicker and easier to manage. I am confident that the pound will remain strong as a result.”
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said it is important that the new government maintains the momentum of the business rates review.
Director general Helen Dickinson said: “We were greatly encouraged last year when the last government – supported by the other main parties – announced the structural review of this outdated system.
“As the evidence review proceeds, ministers can stand by the aspiration that the system is no longer fit for purpose by setting out a vision of the future of business taxation, one that incorporates the role of rates within the framework. That would demonstrate the Government’s determination to play its role in the necessary long-term planning to revitalise our town centres and bring new ways to shop to the high street.”
British Council of Shopping Centre’s director of policy and public affairs Ed Cooke, welcomed the outcome: “Apart from the obvious surprise for everyone that it was more clear cut than expected, the main thing is that there is an element of stability through continuity and most importantly in relation to the business rates review.”
He also pointed to the likely further devolution of Scotland and said that further devolution to other cities and local authorities in other parts of the UK is now expected to follow which could mean issues affecting retail property stakeholders could become more prevalent.
Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Assocation (Bira), said: “All of the political parties said very little about policies relating to independent retailers and even the Conservatives’ small business manifesto was very light on detail.”
He asked: “The question now is if we can expect to see what very little there was carried through to a new government?”
Retail analyst Nick Bubb said: “In terms of the outlook for retailers, the election outcome is probably a net positive, as the Tories have pledged not to increase VAT and a period of political uncertainty has clearly been avoided, but the weakness of the economic recovery and the impact of price deflation remains a concern.”
James Sproule, chief economist at the Institute of Directors, added: “Retailers will be particularly pleased that the UK’s flexible labour market will be retained, allowing them to manage their workforces in the way the need to in a very competitive and fast-changing sector.”
The Conservatives’ key manifesto pledges:
- Tax-free minimum wage - people working 30 hours a week on the minimum wage will not pay income tax
- Working parents to receive 30 hours free childcare a week
- Creation of 3 million apprenticeships by the end by 2020
- Business rates review by the end of 2015 ‘to ensure that from 2017 they properly reflect the structure our modern economy’
- Eradicate employer exclusivity clauses in zero-hours contracts
- Triple the number of government loans for startups to 75,000
- Raise the minimum wage to £6.70 an hour by autumn 2015 from £6.50, climbing to £8 by the end of the decade