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Retailers left cold by political parties' empty promises

Fashion retailers are fast becoming disillusioned with the main political parties in the build-up to May’s general election, believing that policy statements made over the past couple of weeks will have “little effect” on business.

It comes after Labour leader Ed Miliband gave a speech on the party’s business plans at the Jaguar Land Rover factory in Wolverhampton on Monday, and presented a 79-page document entitled A Better Plan for Britain’s Prosperity.

He said Labour would back small firms by cutting business rates and improving training and apprenticeships. Other policies include banning zero-hours contracts and raising the national minimum wage.

However, the Conservatives claim they are the only ones with a long-term plan for growth.

While business rates remain a priority for retailers, the wider policy pledges are failing to resonate. Many retailers told Drapers they have switched off to the escalating political spat over which party best supports UK businesses.

Karen Axiaq, owner of occasionwear boutique Fancy Frox in Spalding, Lincolnshire, said: “Despite Ed Miliband’s comments, it would not sway me to vote for him as the Conservatives are more business friendly.”

Louise Kavanagh, owner of Liverpool womenswear independent Boudoir Boutique, said: “I don’t think it will make much difference who gets in; no one is going to make sweeping changes.” She said business rates were an “obvious issue that needs tackling” but did not expect major changes.

Paul Hoggett, co-owner of J&B Menswear in Norwich, agreed: “Tax is the biggest burden for small businesses and rates are important as many independents are being priced out of city centres, but it won’t make much of a difference [who wins the election]. I don’t pay much attention to the campaigning anymore.”

The chief executive of one major footwear retailer said: “The biggest worry is incompetence. If someone goes into government and they don’t deliver that creates uncertainty and consumers will shut their purses.

“It won’t matter who goes in as long as they are solid and keep a steady keel on the economy – we don’t want someone who will swing left or right. Uncertainty is the killer.”

See next week’s issue of Drapers for the fashion industry’s election manifesto

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