BFC calls for more government support to save 240,000 jobs

The British Fashion Council (BFC) is calling on the government to support the fashion industry as new figures reveal that 240,000 jobs are at risk as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

New data from Oxford Economics suggests that the Covid-19 recession could hit the British fashion industry twice as hard compared to the UK overall, effectively wiping out the above-average growth achieved by the industry in the past ten years.

The data shows that alongside the economic impact, an entire generation of creative talent is threatened to disappear, putting in danger the UK’s position as the “creative crucible of global fashion”.

The British fashion industry employed 890,000 people in 2019 and Oxford Economics predicts that 240,000 direct jobs are at risk. This figure rises to 350,000 when indirect roles in the supply chain and consumer spending are taken into account, representing 1 percent of all UK jobs.

In addition, the research reveals that the level of contribution to GDP is forecasted to drop from 35 billion pounds in 2019 to 26.2 billion pounds, while revenues are predicted to drop from 118 billion pounds to 88 billion pounds.

The British Fashion Council said in a statement that it welcomed the support measures implemented by the government throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, however, research has found that many fashion businesses have not been able to access the schemes. Therefore, in order to ensure future employment, whilst re-setting the industry with a focus on “clean growth and positive change on the planet and its people”, it is asking the government to do more to support the industry.

British Fashion Council sets out seven steps to protect the fashion industry

The fashion organisation, which promotes leading British fashion designers globally, has set out seven measures, which it believes will protect the future of the sector.

The first being to “keep retail open” by protecting towns and cities who are struggling due to almost no tourism and projected long-term limited footfall due to low office occupancy and remote working in towns and cities. The British Fashion Council is calling on government support to enable lease re-negotiations where landlords aren’t acting responsibly and measures such as grants or long-term interest-free loans to offset the costs of leases, as well as rent and rates relief for all businesses to ensure that cities and towns “don’t see a swathe of closures resulting in mass job losses, and further reduced footfall”.

It is also asking for more funding for small to medium-size enterprises, to help support innovation, research and developing for the creation of an eco-system to allow the industry to reset including smarter manufacturing, waste management, recycling, upcycling, and business models for a world-leading British circular fashion economy.

In addition, it wants retailing to become more responsible, with help to mitigate the inventory crisis by legislating and regulating it so that large retailers support small businesses, stopping the cancellation of goods and sell-through guarantees on agreed orders.

It also wants more access to financing and future-proofing by exploring financial mechanisms that will de-risk businesses for the future, such as supply chain finance. The global pandemic it states has further spotlighted the financial challenges of fashion businesses and it believes that it is essential that a fiscal framework is created to help develop more robust businesses that are less reliant on leveraging cash flow within the supply chain.

The British Fashion Council is asking for the Future Fund to be made more appealing to private investors by offering EIS relief, as well as the creation of a new Fashion Investment Fund with industry mentoring support and fiscal incentives for investment in business and inward investment.

It would also like support to be given on taxes, to offer a moratorium on payment of duty and tariffs to support the restart of international supply chains and further support liquidity and cash flow in the industry.

The final point in its seven-step plan would be to support the growing opportunity for British fashion and textile manufacturing through investment in innovation, capital and skills, as part of the Clean Growth Strategy while creating the right trading environment through tax relief and negotiations in new Free Trade Agreements.

As well as supporting local personal protective equipment (PPE) supply chain, asking the government to work with the industry to co-invest in British manufacturing, to support not just PPE required now, but the development of material innovation to “create the most resilient, environmentally friendly PPE for the future”.

Photo: British Fashion Council

 

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