No Brexit blues for UK luxury as Brand Britain booms

By Rachel Ingram | 06 Jun 2019 | Wealth

The value of British luxury rises by 49% to £48b, giving brands hope for life post Brexit

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* Walpole CEO Helen Brocklebank

While much of Britain has been worrying about the effects of a no-deal Brexit, the luxury industry has been quietly growing at an unprecedented rate, according to experts Walpole. In just four years from 2013 to 2017, the industry has grown by a staggering 49% – it’s now valued at £48b, with exports topping £38b and employment reaching 156,000.

The figure – which is predicted to reach around £65b by 2024 – sets a new benchmark for the industry, which sees continued success across 11 key sectors: designer apparel and footwear, fine wines and spirits, luxury accessories, luxury jewellery and timepieces, high-end beauty and personal care and high-end car manufacturing.

Overall, the British luxury sector is growing 9.6% per year on average, with the strongest performance coming from the luxury car sector. When you consider the UK average annual economic growth of 4%, this figure is particularly impressive.

Analysis by international consultancy firm Frontier Economics was unveiled in the 2019 Economic Impact Study by Walpole, the trade body for the British luxury sector which works to promote, protect and support over 250 of the UK’s finest luxury brands.

“These figures demonstrate the exceptional contribution British luxury makes to the UK economy and to the reputation of Brand Britain worldwide,” says Walpole CEO Helen Brocklebank. “Few other business sectors can demonstrate growth of nearly 50% in just four years and, against a challenging political backdrop, this is a sector that continues to demonstrate a commitment to investing in UK manufacturing and creating sustainable employment across the country.

“We look forward to continuing this kind of robust growth, not least in exports, but the threat of exiting the EU without a deal remains and would cost British luxury businesses £6.8b in lost export revenues. Now is the time for policymakers to provide distinct sector recognition and to guarantee a suitable framework to protect the growth of the UK’s high-end creative and cultural industries.” >>

Related: Walpole CEO Helen Brocklebank on the enduring success of the UK’s luxury industry and why brand Britain is stronger than ever

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* Customers travel across the globe to purchase British tailoring. Pictured: Gieves & Hawkes

Exports are a defining part of the UK luxury industry’s success. In 2017 alone, the value of sales of high-end goods to non-UK resident customers, particularly those in China, the GCC and the GCC, was £4.5b.

This success is credited to three main principles that underpin UK luxury: the allure of the culture and heritage of ‘Brand Britain’, traditional craftsmanship preserved by UK craftspeople and the UK’s commitment to exceptional quality and long-term relationship building.

It’s clear that for all the current political uncertainty, the strength of the British brand is as strong as ever and demand for our products is soaring,” says Henrietta Jowitt, deputy director general CBI (Confederation of British Industry). “Businesses across the UK continue to live up to a reputation for producing goods of the highest quality.  Exports are the lifeblood of any economy and the contribution of the luxury brands sector in that regard is significant.”

The Walpole forecast predicts that the British luxury industry will continue to grow, however experts also suggest that the level of growth is likely to be dependent on the UK and EU securing a trade agreement following Brexit. Stay tuned…

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* British perfume house Penhaligon's crafts the finest fragrances