Rejina Pyo - Getty Images
Rejina Pyo – Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on most industries. Businesses have been forced to pause trading, revamp their entire operational models, and many have even had to close altogether.

The British fashion industry has been particularly negatively impacted, and will continue to suffer as the country recovers from the effects of the Covid-19 lockdown, according to new data released on Thursday by the British Fashion Council (BFC) from Oxford Economics. Already, we have seen Debenhams, Laura Ashley, Aldo UK and Victoria’s Secret UK file for administration, as well as shopping centre owner Intu.

Oxford Economics found that the post-pandemic recession could hit the fashion industry twice as hard compared with the UK overall, with revenue predicted to fall from £118 billion in 2019 to £88 billion in 2020. It says this effectively wipes out the above-average growth achieved by the industry over the past decade, and could reduce fashion’s contribution to GDP from £35 billion to £26.2 billion.

It also predicts that 240,000 of the 890,000 people directly employed by the British fashion industry will lose their jobs. Add to that the potential indirect job losses through the supply chain and consumer spending, and the figure rises to 350,000 which equates to 1 percent of all UK jobs.

If nothing is done to alleviate the strain on the British fashion industry, the BFC believes that an entire generation of creative talent could disappear. As a result, it is calling for the Government to implement new schemes that would help buoy fashion and retail businesses in the coming years.

“Whilst the BFC welcomes the support measures implemented by the Government throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, research found that many fashion businesses have not been able to access the schemes,” it said in a press release. “In order to ensure future employment, whilst resetting the industry with a focus on clean growth and positive change on the planet and its people, the BFC is asking the Government to consider the future of the sector through a series of seven [new] measures.”

Among the proposals, the BFC is asking the Government to help keep retail stores open by offering support in lease negotiations where landlords aren’t acting responsibly. It also wants new regulations preventing large retailers from cancelling on agreed orders from small labels.

Funding is another key area in which the BFC wants the Government to support the fashion industry and help future-proof independent brands. It is seeking grants or long-term interest-free loans for small to medium-size businesses that are not currently eligible for existing opportunities, as well as funding to support a more sustainable circular economy, like waste management and recycling. 

Additionally it wants support in bringing responsible fashion and textile manufacturing back into the UK, and proposes that they work together to support the manufacturing of personal protective equipment, following Downing Street’s commitment to produce two billion pieces of British-made PPE. It is also calling for a moratorium on duty and tariffs to help kick-start international supply chains. 

The BFC’s announcement on Thursday follows another initiative launched to help support fashion businesses hit hard by the pandemic: the BFC Foundation Fashion Fund was launched in May to help fashion businesses and individuals to survive the Covid-19 crisis. 

Grants from the £1 million emergency fund have been allocated to 37 businesses including Alighieri, Roksanda and Rejina Pyo, all chosen for their potential to come through and thrive post-crisis. 

“The need for support is immense,” said Caroline Rush, BFC chief executive, in a statement. “Our hope is to re-open the fund for future rounds, to help as many businesses as possible, and ensure the future growth and success of the British fashion industry.”

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