Is Government Help Crucial To Independent Fashion's Survival?

British High Street image

If the auto industry gets a bailout, what are small independent designers entitled to?  In Britain, a call to the government for some kind of aid, or a change in the rules, is gaining traction as independent designers disappear off London’s most fashionable shopping streets.  Though big British brands are booming internationally — like Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham, and their ilk — the next generation is getting squeezed. Brick-and-mortar retail is doing all it can to stay relevant, but smaller businesses might need outside assistance, beyond what they’re doing to help themselves.

Around one thousand independent fashion businesses shut down, in London, during the first half of 2012.  Why?  There are two glaring problems.  The first, of course, is the insanely high cost of doing business in a prime physical retail area.  Both taxes and rent are set way too high for smaller designers to compete.  The second problem could be more easily alleviated by a simple change in policy.  Independent designers and boutiques aren’t granted access to sufficient credit and thus often have to foot their own bills, which just isn’t possible much of the time.  The lack of credit interferes with consistent stock flow, and the stores go under.

If the British government were to step in and enact policy to make it easier for small fashion businesses to get credit, as well as adjust the hefty business rates placed on brick-and-mortar stores in prime locations, they’d be fostering the country’s next crop of designers and small businesses.  Moreover, a change in the rules would confer a higher status on independent brands, because it would acknowledge, in an official capacity, their importance to the economy.

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