After Theresa May’s surprise decision to call a general election, Drapers reflects on what it could mean for the fashion industry.
Prime minister Theresa May caught the country off guard this morning, unveiling surprise plans to call a snap general election on 8 June. May had previously denied rumours that she would call an election before 2020, but today argued it was necessary to send the country to the polls to ensure strong leadership around Brexit and prevent political “game-playing” in Westminster. But what could a snap election mean for fashion retailers?
Uncertainty is never good for consumer spending, as retailers know all too well. The UK is already facing a tumultuous few years working out the implications of last June’s decision to leave the European Union, as well as repeated demands from the Scottish National Party for a second vote on Scottish independence. Footfall dipped in the week of the last general election in 2015, and research firm Springboard warned that elections can “divert consumers’ attention and disturb shopping patterns”.
However, this was only a temporary blip and the retail industry largely welcomed the stability and continuity created when the Conservatives retained power in 2015. This time round, the outcome of the election seems fairly certain: May is already the front-runner. The prime minister has a clear lead over Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in the polls and the voting intention share for Labour is the lowest it has been since 2009, YouGov surveys indicate. Corbyn has welcomed May’s move to call an election, but whether his party can mount a strong enough campaign to rival the Tories has yet to be seen.
So, another Conservative victory looks like the mostly outcome, creating further stability in economic and business policy. And as May flagged in her Downing Street speech this morning, both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats have opposed Brexit. An election win would give the Conservatives a clearer mandate to govern and negotiate Britain’s withdrawal from the EU, in turn potentially creating a smoother transition for British businesses.