The industry has welcomed the “certainty” of a majority Conservative government.
The Conservatives won yesterday’s general election with 43.6% of the vote.
At a victory speech in central London this morning, Tory leader Boris Johnson said his priority was to ensure that the UK leaves the European Union by 31 January. The pound rose to its highest level since May 2018 – up 2.1% against the dollar.
“Sterling is up and continues to rise, and I’m sure a feel-good factor will flow throughout the country,” said Ray Clacher, retail consultant and former executive vice-president at Hong Kong fashion group Trinity, which owns menswear brands Kent & Curwen, Gieves & Hawkes and Cerruti 1881.
“The stock markets are giving this win a major thumbs-up, which is very good news for the economy. Clearly people want Brexit done and this is great news for retail as the fear of more uncertainty has left the consumer being cautious in their spending.”
One former CEO of a womenswear multiple retailer said: “Now Boris Johnson has won the election we now have dates for decisions and implementation of Brexit so “certainty”, up to a point. The fear of more delay and potential referendums has now gone, so that will hopefully mean retailers can plan and forecast with more confidence.”
The managing director of one premium retailer described the outcome as an “unexpected turn of events”: “What this result does, is create a sense of certainty [that the UK will leave the EU] and for sure, even ’Brexit Remainers’, from a business perspective, knew clarity was required to allow businesses to focus on the considerable future challenges we face.”
One footwear supplier agreed: “I hope that decisions will now be made and the ‘limbo’ we have been in will now stop and decisions will be made. I am hoping that the country will move forward, Brexit will get sorted in one way or another and I think once we know what is happening, we can at least plan for that.”
He added: “Town centres are struggling, and I think it will need a lot more than a Conservative majority to fix that problem. I personally think we can regenerate the town centres but it will require different funding – a total rethink on a lot of areas [one immediate one is the rates system].”
The regeneration of town centres plays a big part in the Tory manifesto, under an initiative called “A new deal for towns”.
Clacher added: “Retail, town centres, malls etc all need assistance and I hope that local government can work closely with BIDs [business improvement districts], BRC [British Retail Consortium] and other retail bodies to make real change, and encourage a realistic approach to business rates.”
The Tory manifesto stated that “as a first step” it will further reduce business rates for retail businesses via a “fundamental review of the system”.
Industry bodies and manufacturers are also pleased with the election result, as they believe businesses can now “push forward” with decision-making.
Lucy Reece-Raybould, CEO of the British Footwear Association (BFA), said: “During the last three years, the British Footwear Association has been focused on representing our strongly held view that the British footwear sector needs stable economic conditions, functioning infrastructure, the ability to retain a highly skilled workforce and support in overcoming international trade barriers.
“During this period, we have suffered from a ‘hung parliament’ and the resulting political impasse has been extremely damaging to consumer, business and investor confidence.”
She added: “This election result gives the country the opportunity to move forward again and we welcome the certainty of a majority Conservative government, and the chance it creates to rebuild consumer confidence and kick start economic growth.”
Adam Mansell, CEO of UK Fashion and Textile Association (UKFT), agreed: “UKFT welcomes the certainty this result brings, and we look forward to working with the new government to help the UK fashion and textile industry continue to grow and thrive.
“Our key priorities for the new government involve securing a Brexit deal that minimises disruption to trade, increasing support for exporters, fixing the skills and training landscape and increasing targeted support for UK manufacturing businesses.”
Kate Hills, founder of UK manufacturing platform Make it British, was disappointed as the result means Brexit “will definitely now go ahead”, which she believes will have a negative impact on manufacturers, particularly with regards to skills and staffing.
However, she said: “One good thing is that we’ve been in a state of limbo since the referendum, particularly in the last year there has been lots of uncertainty. Now we can move forward knowing what’s happening and it means we start 2020 with a much clearer picture of the outcomes. Businesses can start making more concrete plans. They’ve not been able to plan, and no one has not been keen to make decisions.
“I’d like to think we’re going into the new decade with a much clearer outcome.”