LONDON — The British fashion industry is risking losing its position as one of the leaders in the global fashion landscape, so the British Fashion Council is calling for more government support.
The organization has released data by Oxford Economics, which predicts that 240,000 direct jobs will be lost in the U.K. fashion industry, which until last year employed 890,000 people.
A further 110,000 indirect jobs are also said to be at risk, which will cause the industry’s total revenues to drop to 88 billion pounds this year, compared to 118 billion pounds in 2019. This will decrease the industry’s overall contribution to the country’s economy to 26.2 billion pounds, from 35 billion pounds last year.
The New West End company, which represents retailers across central London shopping thoroughfares like Bond, Oxford and Regent Streets, presented a similarly dire outlook in its latest footfall figures. The firm predicts a 5 billion pound loss in sales and 50,000 job losses if the government doesn’t take further action.
Since the opening of nonessential stores last month, London’s West End welcomed 5.1 million visitors, down 73 percent year-over-year — a drop the firm accounts to the lack of international tourists, as well as the mixed messaging around the safety of returning to work and using public transport.
According to the BFC, this data highlights that the looming recession will effectively “wipe out” the above-average growth the industry has been achieving to date — as well as an entire generation of talent.
The solution lies in greater support from the government, whose current schemes have not been entirely relevant for fashion companies.
That’s why the BFC has laid out seven proposed measures tailored to the needs of fashion businesses and is calling for the government to “consider the future of the sector.”
The measures include government support for brands and retailers to renegotiate expensive leases and help keep retail stores open until footfall starts to recover; access to grants or interest-free loans for small and medium-sized businesses; an embargo placed on payments of tariffs to help restart international trade, and legislation to prevent large retailers from canceling orders or imposing sell-through guarantees on orders, which will help protect smaller businesses with limited cash flow.
The BFC is also asking for funding that will enable research into sustainable practices like upcycling or waste management that will help restart the industry in a healthier, more circular way. It also highlighted the importance of supporting the local manufacturing and textile industries, with the government building on its commitment to produce 2 billion pieces of personal protective equipment in the U.K. and further investing in the development of skills, material innovations beyond PPE, and tax-relief schemes that will create the “right trading environment.”
In the meantime, the organization is continuing its own fund-raising initiatives, having already given financial support and mentoring to 37 British brands and students last May, from its 1 million pound emergency fund.
Earlier this week the organization revealed plans to go ahead with London Fashion Week, which will run from Sept. 17 to 22 as a gender-neutral showcase featuring men’s and women’s wear designers and hosting a mix of digital presentations and physical shows held under “government social distancing guidelines.”