​Savile Row tailors say duty-free shopping end could be existential issue

The call comes as fears grow that the Covid-19 pandemic poses an “existential threat” to some of London’s historic businesses, according to the Times newspaper.Savile Row tailors have written to the chancellor warning that the end of VAT-free shopping puts their futures in doubt and comes at a time when the pandemic closes stores and badly hits tourism. Meanwhile, travel restrictions and home working have resulted in a sharp decline in demand for formalwear.

The government’s plan to end VAT refunds for overseas visitors comes into effect at the end of this year and could lead to £3.5 billion in lost revenue for retailers. According to the Centre for Economics and Business Research, about £28.4 billion was spent by overseas tourists last year, with £2.5 billion reclaimed in VAT.Simon Cundey, managing director of Henry Poole, said: “This VAT move is really coming at the wrong time. It’s not been thought through at all. It will tear off a mass of industry and income from overseas, which will just switch to Paris or Rome.”Neil Clifford, chairman of high-end shirt-maker Turnbull & Asser, added: “This change will decimate the popular shopping area of St James in central London and will mean that we will significantly downsize our production team next year.”

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