Consumer confidence is low, the high street is in the midst of one of its most challenging periods yet, Brexit is imminent, and the UK has a new prime minister, Boris Johnson.
Yesterday, Johnson was voted in by Conservative Party members as the new UK prime minister, and the industry will now wait with bated breath to see what initiatives he puts in place to support British businesses.
The number-one priority will inevitably be Brexit. With just over three months until the 31 October departure date, Johnson must push forward with negotiations to leave the European Union with the best deal possible. However, he has made it clear that he is open to a no-deal Brexit, which has raised concerns among many industry leaders.
The potential impact of shipping delays and increased tariffs is something retailers will be urging the government to avoid. In June, Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, warned that around 150,000 businesses do not have the paperwork in place that will allow them to continue exporting to the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
However, many retailers have been preparing for no deal Brexit in the knowledge that with Johnson it is a distinct possibility. Lord Wolfson, chief executive of Next, has previously said the business is ready for a no-deal Brexit. He highlighted the positive decision by Revenue and Customs to give a transition period at the ports and wave through those who do not have the right paperwork, to allow them to sort it out afterwards.
Brexit aside, there are numerous additional challenges the industry will be looking to Johnson to address as his proposed business policies remain relatively unclear. In the run-up to the leadership election, Jeremy Hunt outlined his proposal for corporation tax reductions, but Johnson has yet to confirm any plans although he is in favour in theory.
Johnson has pledged to help the high street, including planning reforms that will make change of use easier for premises, the removal of business rates on ATMs and a promise to get behind the chancellor’s £675m Future High Streets Fund, which are all positive steps in the right direction.
Beyond this, the industry has also long been calling on the government to support sustainability initiatives. Following the rejection of all of the Environmental Audit Committee’s proposals, it is time for Johnson to step in and show support in this crucial area of development for all UK businesses.
In September 2018 the British Fashion Council highlighted that the UK fashion industry is worth £32bn and 890,000 jobs to the economy. As the UK prime minister, Johnson must listen to and support the fashion industry to ensure its continued success during his time at Number 10 and for many more years to come.