A model wearing an El Saha dress (El Saha)
Summer 2023 has been far from ideal for the high street, with sales slumping in July and most recently a heatwave in September, just as jackets and knitwear have hit stores. So the capital’s retailers will relish the prospect of London Fashion Week (LFW) drawing many wealthy and often big-spending fans of designer goods to the city.
The clothing extravaganza, which begins on Friday, features 137 brands, and there are plenty of catwalks, presentations and parties to excite label lovers, influencers, retail buyers and fashion editors.
Attendees are expected to boost footfall in the West End during the five-day global showcase of talent, and some companies will be keeping a close eye on shopping areas proving popular, with an eye on potentially opening new stores.
In encouraging signs for the capital’s fashion business sector, the latest research from property consultancy Colliers suggests there will be plenty of retail activity in addition to LFW. The firm estimates there were requirements from 71 fashion and accessories brands for first or additional London stores in the first half.
Although this is down 17% from a year ago, it still means there is plenty of investment appetite, and 2023 has already seen a number of openings such as a Gucci boutique on New Bond Street.
Paul Sauber, head of London retail at Colliers, says: “We are experiencing extremely strong levels of demand from luxury fashion houses and brands who are opening bigger, better flagship stores with full product ranges and memorable instore experiences.”
But he warns: “What is becoming increasingly clear is that by removing tax-free shopping for foreign visitors we have lost our competitive advantage over other European cities.”
Sauber is not alone in expressing concern over the end of VAT-free shopping in 2021. The move makes shopping in the UK 20% more expensive for international visitors. Independent designer Adeline Lee, who makes all her clothes in the UK and launched her eponymous company in 2013, believes the loss of duty-free shopping will make it difficult for small, British companies to compete with their European counterparts. becomes more difficult.
The designer is one of the LFW participants who wants many of the economic adverse trends, from rising bills to supply chain headaches, to go out of fashion.
Model wears a dress designed by Adeline Lee (Eva K. Salvi)
“The biggest hurdle in the UK is the rising cost of running a business,” says Laboni Saha, founder of womenswear brand El Saha. There are costs related to Brexit (our supply chain extends throughout the EU) and inflation. “As a young business we are finding it more challenging to remain profitable from sales in the UK.”
Saha says: “Despite the challenges, London has a charm and appeal as a fashion capital that few other cities can match.”
Meanwhile, George Graham, chief executive of retailer Wolf & Badger, which has a store in King’s Cross and is hosting an LFW party, says other issues businesses are struggling with include “extraordinarily” high utility costs. Is.
He also warned that any significant future rise in business rates “could be very damaging, particularly if prime retail rents remain high”.
Despite the difficulties, LFW participants seem committed to London and say the capital remains a top fashion destination. But luxury goods trade body Walpole believes the government must do more to ensure the city remains in vogue among businesses and their customers.
Helen Brocklebank, chief executive of Walpole, says: “The success of London Fashion Week is testament to the excellence and creativity of the brands showcasing here.”
However, Brocklebank says: “We need government to work with business to create legislation that supports future growth, including the return of tax-free shopping and a reformed business rates system. “We should not assume that shoppers will always spend here, when the UK is now effectively the most expensive place to shop in Europe.”