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International trade shows rally round UKFT following grant cuts

International trade shows including Pitti Uomo in Florence and Who’s Next in Paris have offered free or substantially discounted exhibition space to the UK Fashion & Textile Association (for its own stands) in January and March, after the UK government cut the budget for promoting businesses abroad next season.

As Drapers reported in October, Tradeshow Access Programme grants, which are provided by government body UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) to support small and medium-sized exporters, have been cut by around £1m for the fourth quarter of the current financial year running to April.

This includes the axing of key event funding for marketing programmes, which was previously available to trade bodies including the UKFT and British Footwear Association to help promote the British fashion and footwear industry at certain international shows.

UKFT has been “lobbying hard” to try to reverse some of the cuts, holding meetings with UKTI, the Treasury and the deputy prime minister’s office, according to the association’s director of international business development Paul Alger.

It has now agreed with the government to reduce the value of the individual grants from £1,200 to £1,000, allowing it to spread the support more widely. This means UKFT can now support two-thirds of the businesses it had originally planned to.

While the key event funding cuts remain in place, Alger said help had come from other avenues. “While the key event funding has not come on track and there is little likelihood that this will change, we have managed to pull in a lot of favours with Pitti Uomo in Florence, Who’s Next, Tranoi Femme and Première Vision in Paris, and Heimtextil in Frankfurt, who have offered us free or substantially discounted space to enable UKFT to maintain the level of activity at those shows,” he explained.

UKFT is now working with the government to agree the shape and value of the TAP scheme from 2015 onwards. It hopes the budget could be ring-fenced in the future.

“We have had some encouraging meetings,” said Alger. “For the first part of 2015, up to September, we are likely to see a similar scheme in place to the one we currently know. Beyond that, we are being assured that there will be a new or revised scheme, possibly slightly less dependent on grants, with value added services for more established companies and support for start ups.”

Last week, Drapers revealed the British Footwear Association has also managed to re-negotiate the nature of the cuts affecting footwear brands hoping to exhibit abroad.

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