Scottish clothing businesses breathed a sigh of relief after the country last week rejected independence from the UK.
In the run-up to the referendum Scottish retailers had expressed concerns that independence could result in increased taxes, interest rates and regulation. This week the overwhelming majority of retailers that Drapers spoke to welcomed the vote to remain in the union, which they said removed uncertainty about the future of a divided UK - particularly in terms of currency and corporation tax for businesses in Scotland.
The No campaign won 55.3% of the votes cast in last Thursday’s referendum, the results of which were announced on September 19.
Natalie Kerr, owner of footwear retailer Elisabeth May Boutique in St Andrews, Fife, said: “If we were to become an independent country it might have brought benefits in the way of health care, but the cost of setting up as [an independent] country might have passed tax and VAT on to businesses.”
She added remaining part of the union “keeps products as competitive as businesses in England” while independence could have led to “consumer uncertainty” in Scotland.
Lauren Ferguson, owner of womenswear independent Sisters Boutique in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, a winner at the Drapers Independents Awards 2014, said: “I stayed up all night on Thursday evening awaiting the result, such was my anxiety over the possible changes. It would have been a disaster for Scotland in my eyes. The uncertainty over the currency was critical; however, being British and having a business with a UK domain name it horrified me to not be part of the union.”
Archie Hume, co-owner of Drapers Independents Awards 2014 overall winner A Hume Country Clothing of Kelso in the Scottish Borders, said the question over whether Scotland might have to join the euro in the future had been particularly off-putting. “It would have been a massive leap of faith,” he said.
Others praised the referendum for raising Scotland’s profile. Douglas Kinloch Anderson, chairman of kilts and highland dress manufacturer Kinloch Anderson in Edinburgh, said the prominence given to Scotland by the world’s media in the run-up to the referendum could benefit export businesses.
But he added: “However, the uncertainty has been increasingly concerning and it is beneficial to now know where we stand.”
Paul Walker, co-owner of Edinburgh tailor and tweed specialist Walker Slater, said: “From a business perspective of course certainty is preferable to the unknown, [but] I think [first minister Alex] Salmond has done a great job in opening up this discussion.”
Grant Mitchell, managing director of mainstream menswear independent Cooper & McKenzie in Dundee and a member of buying group Independent Menswear Company (IMC), said: “Thankfully common sense has prevailed in sufficient strength to ensure we continue flourishing in tangent with our business partners from the southern parts.”
Scottish Retail Consortium director David Lonsdale said the vote signalled the start of a fresh chapter of devolution, with greater power and more economic responsibility for the Scottish government. This, he said, “will enhance our prospects even further by prioritising a competitive and attractive environment for retailers and others to invest.”